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Title: My Man Jeeves
Author: P. G. Wodehouse
Release Date: May, 2005 [EBook #8164]
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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK MY MAN JEEVES ***
Produced by Suzanne L. Shell, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
MY MAN JEEVES
BY P. G. WODEHOUSE
LEAVE IT TO JEEVES
JEEVES AND THE UNBIDDEN GUEST
JEEVES AND THE HARD-BOILED EGG
RALLYING ROUND OLD GEORGE
DOING CLARENCE A BIT OF GOOD
THE AUNT AND THE SLUGGARD
LEAVE IT TO JEEVES
Jeeves--my man, you know--is really a most extraordinary chap. So capable.
Honestly, I shouldn't know what to do without him. On broader lines he's
like those chappies who sit peering sadly over the marble battlements
at the Pennsylvania Station in the place marked "Inquiries." You know
the Johnnies I mean. You go up to them and say: "When's the next train
for Melonsquashville, Tennessee?" and they reply, without stopping to
think, "Two-forty-three, track ten, change at San Francisco." And they're
right every time. Well, Jeeves gives you just the same impression of
As an instance of what I mean, I remember meeting Monty Byng in Bond
Street one morning, looking the last word in a grey check suit, and I
felt I should never be happy till I had one like it. I dug the address
of the tailors out of him, and had them working on the thing inside the
"Jeeves," I said that evening. "I'm getting a check suit like that one
of Mr. Byng's."
"Injudicious, sir," he said firmly. "It will not become you."
"What absolute rot! It's the soundest thing I've struck for years."
"Unsuitable for you, sir."
Well, the long and the short of it was that the confounded thing came
home, and I put it on, and when I caught sight of myself in the glass I
nearly swooned. Jeeves was perfectly right. I looked a cross between a
music-hall comedian and a cheap bookie. Yet Monty had looked fine in
absolutely the same stuff. These things are just Life's mysteries, and
that's all there is to it.
But it isn't only that Jeeves's judgment about clothes is infallible,
though, of course, that's really the main thing. The man knows
everything. There was the matter of that tip on the "Lincolnshire."
I forget now how I got it, but it had the aspect of being the real,
"Jeeves," I said, for I'm fond of the man, and like to do him a good
turn when I can, "if you want to make a bit of money have something on
Wonderchild for the 'Lincolnshire.'"
He shook his head.
"I'd rather not, sir."
"But it's the straight goods. I'm going to put my shirt on him."
"I do not recommend it, sir. The animal is not intended to win. Second
place is what the stable is after."
Perfect piffle, I thought, of course. How the deuce could Jeeves know
anything about it? Still, you know what happened. Wonderchild led till
he was breathing on the wire, and then Banana Fritter came along and
nosed him out. I went straight home and rang for Jeeves.
"After this," I said, "not another step for me without your advice.
From now on consider yourself the brains of the establishment."
"Very good, sir. I shall endeavour to give satisfaction."
And he has, by Jove! I'm a bit short on brain myself; the old bean
would appear to have been constructed more for ornament than for use,
don't you know; but give me five minutes to talk the thing over with
Jeeves, and I'm game to advise any one about anything. And that's why,
when Bruce Corcoran came to me with his troubles, my first act was to
ring the bell and put it up to the lad with the bulging forehead.
"Leave it to Jeeves," I said.
I first got to know Corky when I came to New York. He was a pal of my
cousin Gussie, who was in with a lot of people down Washington Square
way. I don't know if I ever told you about it, but the reason why I
left England was because I was sent over by my Aunt Agatha to try to
stop young Gussie marrying a girl on the vaudeville stage, and I got
the whole thing so mixed up that I decided that it would be a sound
scheme for me to stop on in America for a bit instead of going back and
having long cosy chats about the thing with aunt. So I sent Jeeves out
to find a decent apartment, and settled down for a bit of exile. I'm
bound to say that New York's a topping place to be exiled in. Everybody
was awfully good to me, and there seemed to be plenty of things going
on, and I'm a wealthy bird, so everything was fine. Chappies introduced
me to other chappies, and so on and so forth, and it wasn't long before
I knew squads of the right sort, some who rolled in dollars in houses
up by the Park, and others who lived with the gas turned down mostly
around Washington Square--artists and writers and so forth. Brainy
Corky was one of the artists. A portrait-painter, he called himself,
but he hadn't painted any portraits. He was sitting on the side-lines
with a blanket over his shoulders, waiting for a chance to get into the
game. You see, the catch about portrait-painting--I've looked into the
thing a bit--is that you can't start painting portraits till people
come along and ask you to, and they won't come and ask you to until
you've painted a lot first. This makes it kind of difficult for a
chappie. Corky managed to get along by drawing an occasional picture
for the comic papers--he had rather a gift for funny stuff when he got
a good idea--and doing bedsteads and chairs and things for the
advertisements. His principal source of income, however, was derived
from biting the ear of a rich uncle--one Alexander Worple, who was in
the jute business. I'm a bit foggy as to what jute is, but it's
apparently something the populace is pretty keen on, for Mr. Worple had
made quite an indecently large stack out of it.
Now, a great many fellows think that having a rich uncle is a pretty
soft snap: but, according to Corky, such is not the case. Corky's uncle
was a robust sort of cove, who looked like living for ever. He was
fifty-one, and it seemed as if he might go to par. It was not this,
however, that distressed poor old Corky, for he was not bigoted and had
no objection to the man going on living. What Corky kicked at was the
way the above Worple used to harry him.
Corky's uncle, you see, didn't want him to be an artist. He didn't
think he had any talent in that direction. He was always urging him to
chuck Art and go into the jute business and start at the bottom and
work his way up. Jute had apparently become a sort of obsession with
him. He seemed to attach almost a spiritual importance to it. And what
Corky said was that, while he didn't know what they did at the bottom
of the jute business, instinct told him that it was something too
beastly for words. Corky, moreover, believed in his future as an
artist. Some day, he said, he was going to make a hit. Meanwhile, by
using the utmost tact and persuasiveness, he was inducing his uncle to
cough up very grudgingly a small quarterly allowance.
He wouldn't have got this if his uncle hadn't had a hobby. Mr. Worple
was peculiar in this respect. As a rule, from what I've observed, the
American captain of industry doesn't do anything out of business hours.
When he has put the cat out and locked up the office for the night, he
just relapses into a state of coma from which he emerges only to start
being a captain of industry again. But Mr. Worple in his spare time was
what is known as an ornithologist. He had written a book called
_American Birds_, and was writing another, to be called _More
American Birds_. When he had finished that, the presumption was that
he would begin a third, and keep on till the supply of American birds
gave out. Corky used to go to him about once every three months and let
him talk about American birds. Apparently you could do what you liked
with old Worple if you gave him his head first on his pet subject, so
these little chats used to make Corky's allowance all right for the
time being. But it was pretty rotten for the poor chap. There was the
frightful suspense, you see, and, apart from that, birds, except when
broiled and in the society of a cold bottle, bored him stiff.
To complete the character-study of Mr. Worple, he was a man of
extremely uncertain temper, and his general tendency was to think that
Corky was a poor chump and that whatever step he took in any direction
on his own account, was just another proof of his innate idiocy. I
should imagine Jeeves feels very much the same about me.
So when Corky trickled into my apartment one afternoon, shooing a girl
in front of him, and said, "Bertie, I want you to meet my fiancée, Miss
Singer," the aspect of the matter which hit me first was precisely the
one which he had come to consult me about. The very first words I spoke
were, "Corky, how about your uncle?"
The poor chap gave one of those mirthless laughs. He was looking
anxious and worried, like a man who has done the murder all right but
can't think what the deuce to do with the body.
"We're so scared, Mr. Wooster," said the girl. "We were hoping that you
might suggest a way of breaking it to him."
Muriel Singer was one of those very quiet, appealing girls who have a
way of looking at you with their big eyes as if they thought you were
the greatest thing on earth and wondered that you hadn't got on to it
yet yourself. She sat there in a sort of shrinking way, looking at me
as if she were saying to herself, "Oh, I do hope this great strong man
isn't going to hurt me." She gave a fellow a protective kind of
feeling, made him want to stroke her hand and say, "There, there,
little one!" or words to that effect. She made me feel that there was
nothing I wouldn't do for her. She was rather like one of those
innocent-tasting American drinks which creep imperceptibly into your
system so that, before you know what you're doing, you're starting out
to reform the world by force if necessary and pausing on your way to
tell the large man in the corner that, if he looks at you like that,
you will knock his head off. What I mean is, she made me feel alert and
dashing, like a jolly old knight-errant or something of that kind. I
felt that I was with her in this thing to the limit.
"I don't see why your uncle shouldn't be most awfully bucked," I said
to Corky. "He will think Miss Singer the ideal wife for you."
Corky declined to cheer up.
"You don't know him. Even if he did like Muriel he wouldn't admit it.
That's the sort of pig-headed guy he is. It would be a matter of
principle with him to kick. All he would consider would be that I had
gone and taken an important step without asking his advice, and he
would raise Cain automatically. He's always done it."
I strained the old bean to meet this emergency.
"You want to work it so that he makes Miss Singer's acquaintance
without knowing that you know her. Then you come along----"
"But how can I work it that way?"
I saw his point. That was the catch.
"There's only one thing to do," I said.
"Leave it to Jeeves."
And I rang the bell.
"Sir?" said Jeeves, kind of manifesting himself. One of the rummy
things about Jeeves is that, unless you watch like a hawk, you very
seldom see him come into a room. He's like one of those weird chappies
in India who dissolve themselves into thin air and nip through space in
a sort of disembodied way and assemble the parts again just where they
want them. I've got a cousin who's what they call a Theosophist, and he
says he's often nearly worked the thing himself, but couldn't quite
bring it off, probably owing to having fed in his boyhood on the flesh
of animals slain in anger and pie.
The moment I saw the man standing there, registering respectful
attention, a weight seemed to roll off my mind. I felt like a lost
child who spots his father in the offing. There was something about him
that gave me confidence.
Jeeves is a tallish man, with one of those dark, shrewd faces. His eye
gleams with the light of pure intelligence.
"Jeeves, we want your advice."
"Very good, sir."
I boiled down Corky's painful case into a few well-chosen words.
"So you see what it amount to, Jeeves. We want you to suggest some way
by which Mr. Worple can make Miss Singer's acquaintance without getting
on to the fact that Mr. Corcoran already knows her. Understand?"
"Well, try to think of something."
"I have thought of something already, sir."
"The scheme I would suggest cannot fail of success, but it has what may
seem to you a drawback, sir, in that it requires a certain financial
"He means," I translated to Corky, "that he has got a pippin of an
idea, but it's going to cost a bit."
Naturally the poor chap's face dropped, for this seemed to dish the
whole thing. But I was still under the influence of the girl's melting
gaze, and I saw that this was where I started in as a knight-errant.
"You can count on me for all that sort of thing, Corky," I said. "Only
too glad. Carry on, Jeeves."
"I would suggest, sir, that Mr. Corcoran take advantage of Mr. Worple's
attachment to ornithology."
"How on earth did you know that he was fond of birds?"
"It is the way these New York apartments are constructed, sir. Quite
unlike our London houses. The partitions between the rooms are of the
flimsiest nature. With no wish to overhear, I have sometimes heard Mr.
Corcoran expressing himself with a generous strength on the subject I
"Why should not the young lady write a small volume, to be entitled--let
us say--_The Children's Book of American Birds_, and dedicate it
to Mr. Worple! A limited edition could be published at your expense,
sir, and a great deal of the book would, of course, be given over to
eulogistic remarks concerning Mr. Worple's own larger treatise on the
same subject. I should recommend the dispatching of a presentation copy
to Mr. Worple, immediately on publication, accompanied by a letter in
which the young lady asks to be allowed to make the acquaintance of one
to whom she owes so much. This would, I fancy, produce the desired
result, but as I say, the expense involved would be considerable."
I felt like the proprietor of a performing dog on the vaudeville stage
when the tyke has just pulled off his trick without a hitch. I had
betted on Jeeves all along, and I had known that he wouldn't let me
down. It beats me sometimes why a man with his genius is satisfied to
hang around pressing my clothes and whatnot. If I had half Jeeves's
brain, I should have a stab, at being Prime Minister or something.
"Jeeves," I said, "that is absolutely ripping! One of your very best
"Thank you, sir."
The girl made an objection.
"But I'm sure I couldn't write a book about anything. I can't even
write good letters."
"Muriel's talents," said Corky, with a little cough "lie more in the
direction of the drama, Bertie. I didn't mention it before, but one of
our reasons for being a trifle nervous as to how Uncle Alexander will
receive the news is that Muriel is in the chorus of that show _Choose
your Exit_ at the Manhattan. It's absurdly unreasonable, but we both
feel that that fact might increase Uncle Alexander's natural tendency
to kick like a steer."
I saw what he meant. Goodness knows there was fuss enough in our family
when I tried to marry into musical comedy a few years ago. And the
recollection of my Aunt Agatha's attitude in the matter of Gussie and
the vaudeville girl was still fresh in my mind. I don't know why it
is--one of these psychology sharps could explain it, I suppose--but
uncles and aunts, as a class, are always dead against the drama,
legitimate or otherwise. They don't seem able to stick it at any price.
But Jeeves had a solution, of course.
"I fancy it would be a simple matter, sir, to find some impecunious
author who would be glad to do the actual composition of the volume for
a small fee. It is only necessary that the young lady's name should
appear on the title page."
"That's true," said Corky. "Sam Patterson would do it for a hundred
dollars. He writes a novelette, three short stories, and ten thousand
words of a serial for one of the all-fiction magazines under different
names every month. A little thing like this would be nothing to him.
I'll get after him right away."
"Will that be all, sir?" said Jeeves. "Very good, sir. Thank you, sir."
I always used to think that publishers had to be devilish intelligent
fellows, loaded down with the grey matter; but I've got their number
now. All a publisher has to do is to write cheques at intervals, while
a lot of deserving and industrious chappies rally round and do the real
work. I know, because I've been one myself. I simply sat tight in the
old apartment with a fountain-pen, and in due season a topping, shiny
book came along.
I happened to be down at Corky's place when the first copies of _The
Children's Book of American Birds_ bobbed up. Muriel Singer was
there, and we were talking of things in general when there was a bang
at the door and the parcel was delivered.
It was certainly some book. It had a red cover with a fowl of some
species on it, and underneath the girl's name in gold letters. I opened
a copy at random.
"Often of a spring morning," it said at the top of page twenty-one, "as
you wander through the fields, you will hear the sweet-toned,
carelessly flowing warble of the purple finch linnet. When you are
older you must read all about him in Mr. Alexander Worple's wonderful
You see. A boost for the uncle right away. And only a few pages later
there he was in the limelight again in connection with the yellow-billed
cuckoo. It was great stuff. The more I read, the more I admired the chap
who had written it and Jeeves's genius in putting us on to the wheeze.
I didn't see how the uncle could fail to drop. You can't call a chap the
world's greatest authority on the yellow-billed cuckoo without rousing a
certain disposition towards chumminess in him.
"It's a cert!" I said.
"An absolute cinch!" said Corky.
And a day or two later he meandered up the Avenue to my apartment to
tell me that all was well. The uncle had written Muriel a letter so
dripping with the milk of human kindness that if he hadn't known Mr.
Worple's handwriting Corky would have refused to believe him the author
of it. Any time it suited Miss Singer to call, said the uncle, he would
be delighted to make her acquaintance.
Shortly after this I had to go out of town. Divers sound sportsmen had
invited me to pay visits to their country places, and it wasn't for
several months that I settled down in the city again. I had been
wondering a lot, of course, about Corky, whether it all turned out
right, and so forth, and my first evening in New York, happening to pop
into a quiet sort of little restaurant which I go to when I don't feel
inclined for the bright lights, I found Muriel Singer there, sitting by
herself at a table near the door. Corky, I took it, was out
telephoning. I went up and passed the time of day.
"Well, well, well, what?" I said.
"Why, Mr. Wooster! How do you do?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"You're waiting for Corky, aren't you?"
"Oh, I didn't understand. No, I'm not waiting for him."
It seemed to roe that there was a sort of something in her voice, a
kind of thingummy, you know.
"I say, you haven't had a row with Corky, have you?"
"A spat, don't you know--little misunderstanding--faults on both
sides--er--and all that sort of thing."
"Why, whatever makes you think that?"
"Oh, well, as it were, what? What I mean is--I thought you usually
dined with him before you went to the theatre."
"I've left the stage now."
Suddenly the whole thing dawned on me. I had forgotten what a long time
I had been away.
"Why, of course, I see now! You're married!"
"How perfectly topping! I wish you all kinds of happiness."
"Thank you, so much. Oh Alexander," she said, looking past me, "this is
a friend of mine--Mr. Wooster."
I spun round. A chappie with a lot of stiff grey hair and a red sort of
healthy face was standing there. Rather a formidable Johnnie, he
looked, though quite peaceful at the moment.
"I want you to meet my husband, Mr. Wooster. Mr. Wooster is a friend of
The old boy grasped my hand warmly, and that was all that kept me from
hitting the floor in a heap. The place was rocking. Absolutely.
"So you know my nephew, Mr. Wooster," I heard him say. "I wish you
would try to knock a little sense into him and make him quit this
playing at painting. But I have an idea that he is steadying down. I
noticed it first that night he came to dinner with us, my dear, to be
introduced to you. He seemed altogether quieter and more serious.
Something seemed to have sobered him. Perhaps you will give us the
pleasure of your company at dinner to-night, Mr. Wooster? Or have you
I said I had. What I needed then was air, not dinner. I felt that I
wanted to get into the open and think this thing out.
When I reached my apartment I heard Jeeves moving about in his lair. I
"Jeeves," I said, "now is the time for all good men to come to the aid
of the party. A stiff b.-and-s. first of all, and then I've a bit of
news for you."
He came back with a tray and a long glass.
"Better have one yourself, Jeeves. You'll need it."
"Later on, perhaps, thank you, sir."
"All right. Please yourself. But you're going to get a shock. You
remember my friend, Mr. Corcoran?"
"And the girl who was to slide gracefully into his uncle's esteem by
writing the book on birds?"
"Well, she's slid. She's married the uncle."
He took it without blinking. You can't rattle Jeeves.
"That was always a development to be feared, sir."
"You don't mean to tell me that you were expecting it?"
"It crossed my mind as a possibility."
"Did it, by Jove! Well, I think, you might have warned us!"
"I hardly liked to take the liberty, sir."
Of course, as I saw after I had had a bite to eat and was in a calmer
frame of mind, what had happened wasn't my fault, if you come down to
it. I couldn't be expected to foresee that the scheme, in itself a
cracker-jack, would skid into the ditch as it had done; but all the
same I'm bound to admit that I didn't relish the idea of meeting Corky
again until time, the great healer, had been able to get in a bit of
soothing work. I cut Washington Square out absolutely for the next few
months. I gave it the complete miss-in-baulk. And then, just when I was
beginning to think I might safely pop down in that direction and gather
up the dropped threads, so to speak, time, instead of working the
healing wheeze, went and pulled the most awful bone and put the lid on
it. Opening the paper one morning, I read that Mrs. Alexander Worple
had presented her husband with a son and heir.
I was so darned sorry for poor old Corky that I hadn't the heart to
touch my breakfast. I told Jeeves to drink it himself. I was bowled
over. Absolutely. It was the limit.
I hardly knew what to do. I wanted, of course, to rush down to
Washington Square and grip the poor blighter silently by the hand; and
then, thinking it over, I hadn't the nerve. Absent treatment seemed the
touch. I gave it him in waves.
But after a month or so I began to hesitate again. It struck me that it
was playing it a bit low-down on the poor chap, avoiding him like this
just when he probably wanted his pals to surge round him most. I
pictured him sitting in his lonely studio with no company but his
bitter thoughts, and the pathos of it got me to such an extent that I
bounded straight into a taxi and told the driver to go all out for the
I rushed in, and there was Corky, hunched up at the easel, painting
away, while on the model throne sat a severe-looking female of middle
age, holding a baby.
A fellow has to be ready for that sort of thing.
"Oh, ah!" I said, and started to back out.
Corky looked over his shoulder.
"Halloa, Bertie. Don't go. We're just finishing for the day. That will
be all this afternoon," he said to the nurse, who got up with the baby
and decanted it into a perambulator which was standing in the fairway.
"At the same hour to-morrow, Mr. Corcoran?"
Corky stood there, looking at the door, and then he turned to me and
began to get it off his chest. Fortunately, he seemed to take it for
granted that I knew all about what had happened, so it wasn't as
awkward as it might have been.
"It's my uncle's idea," he said. "Muriel doesn't know about it yet. The
portrait's to be a surprise for her on her birthday. The nurse takes
the kid out ostensibly to get a breather, and they beat it down here.
If you want an instance of the irony of fate, Bertie, get acquainted
with this. Here's the first commission I have ever had to paint a
portrait, and the sitter is that human poached egg that has butted in
and bounced me out of my inheritance. Can you beat it! I call it
rubbing the thing in to expect me to spend my afternoons gazing into
the ugly face of a little brat who to all intents and purposes has hit
me behind the ear with a blackjack and swiped all I possess. I can't
refuse to paint the portrait because if I did my uncle would stop my
allowance; yet every time I look up and catch that kid's vacant eye, I
suffer agonies. I tell you, Bertie, sometimes when he gives me a
patronizing glance and then turns away and is sick, as if it revolted
him to look at me, I come within an ace of occupying the entire front
page of the evening papers as the latest murder sensation. There are
moments when I can almost see the headlines: 'Promising Young Artist
Beans Baby With Axe.'"
I patted his shoulder silently. My sympathy for the poor old scout was
too deep for words.
I kept away from the studio for some time after that, because it didn't
seem right to me to intrude on the poor chappie's sorrow. Besides, I'm
bound to say that nurse intimidated me. She reminded me so infernally
of Aunt Agatha. She was the same gimlet-eyed type.
But one afternoon Corky called me on the 'phone.
"Are you doing anything this afternoon?"
"You couldn't come down here, could you?"
"What's the trouble? Anything up?"
"I've finished the portrait."
"Good boy! Stout work!"
"Yes." His voice sounded rather doubtful. "The fact is, Bertie, it
doesn't look quite right to me. There's something about it--My uncle's
coming in half an hour to inspect it, and--I don't know why it is, but
I kind of feel I'd like your moral support!"
I began to see that I was letting myself in for something. The
sympathetic co-operation of Jeeves seemed to me to be indicated.
"You think he'll cut up rough?"
I threw my mind back to the red-faced chappie I had met at the
restaurant, and tried to picture him cutting up rough. It was only too
easy. I spoke to Corky firmly on the telephone.
"I'll come," I said.
"But only if I may bring Jeeves!"
"Why Jeeves? What's Jeeves got to do with it? Who wants Jeeves? Jeeves
is the fool who suggested the scheme that has led----"
"Listen, Corky, old top! If you think I am going to face that uncle of
yours without Jeeves's support, you're mistaken. I'd sooner go into a
den of wild beasts and bite a lion on the back of the neck."
"Oh, all right," said Corky. Not cordially, but he said it; so I rang
for Jeeves, and explained the situation.
"Very good, sir," said Jeeves.
That's the sort of chap he is. You can't rattle him.
We found Corky near the door, looking at the picture, with one hand up
in a defensive sort of way, as if he thought it might swing on him.
"Stand right where you are, Bertie," he said, without moving. "Now,
tell me honestly, how does it strike you?"
The light from the big window fell right on the picture. I took a good
look at it. Then I shifted a bit nearer and took another look. Then I
went back to where I had been at first, because it hadn't seemed quite
so bad from there.
"Well?" said Corky, anxiously.
I hesitated a bit.
"Of course, old man, I only saw the kid once, and then only for a
moment, but--but it _was_ an ugly sort of kid, wasn't it, if I
"As ugly as that?"
I looked again, and honesty compelled me to be frank.
"I don't see how it could have been, old chap."
Poor old Corky ran his fingers through his hair in a temperamental sort
of way. He groaned.
"You're right quite, Bertie. Something's gone wrong with the darned
thing. My private impression is that, without knowing it, I've worked
that stunt that Sargent and those fellows pull--painting the soul of
the sitter. I've got through the mere outward appearance, and have put
the child's soul on canvas."
"But could a child of that age have a soul like that? I don't see how
he could have managed it in the time. What do you think, Jeeves?"
"I doubt it, sir."
"It--it sorts of leers at you, doesn't it?"
"You've noticed that, too?" said Corky.
"I don't see how one could help noticing."
"All I tried to do was to give the little brute a cheerful expression.
But, as it worked out, he looks positively dissipated."
"Just what I was going to suggest, old man. He looks as if he were in
the middle of a colossal spree, and enjoying every minute of it. Don't
you think so, Jeeves?"
"He has a decidedly inebriated air, sir."
Corky was starting to say something when the door opened, and the uncle
For about three seconds all was joy, jollity, and goodwill. The old boy
shook hands with me, slapped Corky on the back, said that he didn't
think he had ever seen such a fine day, and whacked his leg with his
stick. Jeeves had projected himself into the background, and he didn't
"Well, Bruce, my boy; so the portrait is really finished, is it--really
finished? Well, bring it out. Let's have a look at it. This will be a
wonderful surprise for your aunt. Where is it? Let's----"
And then he got it--suddenly, when he wasn't set for the punch; and he
rocked back on his heels.
"Oosh!" he exclaimed. And for perhaps a minute there was one of the
scaliest silences I've ever run up against.
"Is this a practical joke?" he said at last, in a way that set about
sixteen draughts cutting through the room at once.
I thought it was up to me to rally round old Corky.
"You want to stand a bit farther away from it," I said.
"You're perfectly right!" he snorted. "I do! I want to stand so far
away from it that I can't see the thing with a telescope!" He turned on
Corky like an untamed tiger of the jungle who has just located a chunk
of meat. "And this--this--is what you have been wasting your time and
my money for all these years! A painter! I wouldn't let you paint a
house of mine! I gave you this commission, thinking that you were a
competent worker, and this--this--this extract from a comic coloured
supplement is the result!" He swung towards the door, lashing his tail
and growling to himself. "This ends it! If you wish to continue this
foolery of pretending to be an artist because you want an excuse for
idleness, please yourself. But let me tell you this. Unless you report
at my office on Monday morning, prepared to abandon all this idiocy and
start in at the bottom of the business to work your way up, as you
should have done half a dozen years ago, not another cent--not another
Then the door closed, and he was no longer with us. And I crawled out
of the bombproof shelter.
"Corky, old top!" I whispered faintly.
Corky was standing staring at the picture. His face was set. There was
a hunted look in his eye.
"Well, that finishes it!" he muttered brokenly.
"What are you going to do?"
"Do? What can I do? I can't stick on here if he cuts off supplies. You
heard what he said. I shall have to go to the office on Monday."
I couldn't think of a thing to say. I knew exactly how he felt about
the office. I don't know when I've been so infernally uncomfortable. It
was like hanging round trying to make conversation to a pal who's just
been sentenced to twenty years in quod.
And then a soothing voice broke the silence.
"If I might make a suggestion, sir!"
It was Jeeves. He had slid from the shadows and was gazing gravely at
the picture. Upon my word, I can't give you a better idea of the
shattering effect of Corky's uncle Alexander when in action than by
saying that he had absolutely made me forget for the moment that Jeeves
"I wonder if I have ever happened to mention to you, sir, a Mr. Digby
Thistleton, with whom I was once in service? Perhaps you have met him?
He was a financier. He is now Lord Bridgnorth. It was a favourite
saying of his that there is always a way. The first time I heard him
use the expression was after the failure of a patent depilatory which
"Jeeves," I said, "what on earth are you talking about?"
"I mentioned Mr. Thistleton, sir, because his was in some respects
a parallel case to the present one. His depilatory failed, but he
did not despair. He put it on the market again under the name of
Hair-o, guaranteed to produce a full crop of hair in a few months.
It was advertised, if you remember, sir, by a humorous picture of a
billiard-ball, before and after taking, and made such a substantial
fortune that Mr. Thistleton was soon afterwards elevated to the peerage
for services to his Party. It seems to me that, if Mr. Corcoran looks
into the matter, he will find, like Mr. Thistleton, that there is always
a way. Mr. Worple himself suggested the solution of the difficulty. In
the heat of the moment he compared the portrait to an extract from a
coloured comic supplement. I consider the suggestion a very valuable
one, sir. Mr. Corcoran's portrait may not have pleased Mr. Worple as a
likeness of his only child, but I have no doubt that editors would gladly
consider it as a foundation for a series of humorous drawings. If Mr.
Corcoran will allow me to make the suggestion, his talent has always been
for the humorous. There is something about this picture--something bold
and vigorous, which arrests the attention. I feel sure it would be highly
Corky was glaring at the picture, and making a sort of dry, sucking
noise with his mouth. He seemed completely overwrought.
And then suddenly he began to laugh in a wild way.
"Corky, old man!" I said, massaging him tenderly. I feared the poor
blighter was hysterical.
He began to stagger about all over the floor.
"He's right! The man's absolutely right! Jeeves, you're a life-saver!
You've hit on the greatest idea of the age! Report at the office on
Monday! Start at the bottom of the business! I'll buy the business if I
feel like it. I know the man who runs the comic section of the
_Sunday Star_. He'll eat this thing. He was telling me only the
other day how hard it was to get a good new series. He'll give me
anything I ask for a real winner like this. I've got a gold-mine.
Where's my hat? I've got an income for life! Where's that confounded
hat? Lend me a fiver, Bertie. I want to take a taxi down to Park Row!"
Jeeves smiled paternally. Or, rather, he had a kind of paternal
muscular spasm about the mouth, which is the nearest he ever gets to
"If I might make the suggestion, Mr. Corcoran--for a title of the
series which you have in mind--'The Adventures of Baby Blobbs.'"
Corky and I looked at the picture, then at each other in an awed way.
Jeeves was right. There could be no other title.
"Jeeves," I said. It was a few weeks later, and I had just finished
looking at the comic section of the _Sunday Star_. "I'm an
optimist. I always have been. The older I get, the more I agree with
Shakespeare and those poet Johnnies about it always being darkest
before the dawn and there's a silver lining and what you lose on the
swings you make up on the roundabouts. Look at Mr. Corcoran, for
instance. There was a fellow, one would have said, clear up to the
eyebrows in the soup. To all appearances he had got it right in the
neck. Yet look at him now. Have you seen these pictures?"
"I took the liberty of glancing at them before bringing them to you,
sir. Extremely diverting."
"They have made a big hit, you know."
"I anticipated it, sir."
I leaned back against the pillows.
"You know, Jeeves, you're a genius. You ought to be drawing a
commission on these things."
"I have nothing to complain of in that respect, sir. Mr. Corcoran has
been most generous. I am putting out the brown suit, sir."
"No, I think I'll wear the blue with the faint red stripe."
"Not the blue with the faint red stripe, sir."
"But I rather fancy myself in it."
"Not the blue with the faint red stripe, sir."
"Oh, all right, have it your own way."
"Very good, sir. Thank you, sir."
Of course, I know it's as bad as being henpecked; but then Jeeves is
always right. You've got to consider that, you know. What?
JEEVES AND THE UNBIDDEN GUEST
I'm not absolutely certain of my facts, but I rather fancy it's
Shakespeare--or, if not, it's some equally brainy lad--who says that
it's always just when a chappie is feeling particularly top-hole, and
more than usually braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up
behind him with a bit of lead piping. There's no doubt the man's right.
It's absolutely that way with me. Take, for instance, the fairly rummy
matter of Lady Malvern and her son Wilmot. A moment before they turned
up, I was just thinking how thoroughly all right everything was.
It was one of those topping mornings, and I had just climbed out from
under the cold shower, feeling like a two-year-old. As a matter of
fact, I was especially bucked just then because the day before I had
asserted myself with Jeeves--absolutely asserted myself, don't you
know. You see, the way things had been going on I was rapidly becoming
a dashed serf. The man had jolly well oppressed me. I didn't so much
mind when he made me give up one of my new suits, because, Jeeves's
judgment about suits is sound. But I as near as a toucher rebelled when
he wouldn't let me wear a pair of cloth-topped boots which I loved like
a couple of brothers. And when he tried to tread on me like a worm in
the matter of a hat, I jolly well put my foot down and showed him who
was who. It's a long story, and I haven't time to tell you now, but
the point is that he wanted me to wear the Longacre--as worn by John
Drew--when I had set my heart on the Country Gentleman--as worn by
another famous actor chappie--and the end of the matter was that, after
a rather painful scene, I bought the Country Gentleman. So that's how
things stood on this particular morning, and I was feeling kind of
manly and independent.
Well, I was in the bathroom, wondering what there was going to be for
breakfast while I massaged the good old spine with a rough towel and
sang slightly, when there was a tap at the door. I stopped singing and
opened the door an inch.
"What ho without there!"
"Lady Malvern wishes to see you, sir," said Jeeves.
"Lady Malvern, sir. She is waiting in the sitting-room."
"Pull yourself together, Jeeves, my man," I said, rather severely, for
I bar practical jokes before breakfast. "You know perfectly well
there's no one waiting for me in the sitting-room. How could there be
when it's barely ten o'clock yet?"
"I gathered from her ladyship, sir, that she had landed from an ocean
liner at an early hour this morning."
This made the thing a bit more plausible. I remembered that when I had
arrived in America about a year before, the proceedings had begun at
some ghastly hour like six, and that I had been shot out on to a
foreign shore considerably before eight.
"Who the deuce is Lady Malvern, Jeeves?"
"Her ladyship did not confide in me, sir."
"Is she alone?"
"Her ladyship is accompanied by a Lord Pershore, sir. I fancy that his
lordship would be her ladyship's son."
"Oh, well, put out rich raiment of sorts, and I'll be dressing."
"Our heather-mixture lounge is in readiness, sir."
"Then lead me to it."
While I was dressing I kept trying to think who on earth Lady Malvern
could be. It wasn't till I had climbed through the top of my shirt and
was reaching out for the studs that I remembered.
"I've placed her, Jeeves. She's a pal of my Aunt Agatha."
"Yes. I met her at lunch one Sunday before I left
London. A very vicious specimen. Writes books. She wrote a book on
social conditions in India when she came back from the Durbar."
"Yes, sir? Pardon me, sir, but not that tie!"
"Not that tie with the heather-mixture lounge, sir!"
It was a shock to me. I thought I had quelled the fellow. It was rather
a solemn moment. What I mean is, if I weakened now, all my good work
the night before would be thrown away. I braced myself.
"What's wrong with this tie? I've seen you give it a nasty look before.
Speak out like a man! What's the matter with it?"
"Too ornate, sir."
"Nonsense! A cheerful pink. Nothing more."
"Jeeves, this is the tie I wear!"
"Very good, sir."
Dashed unpleasant. I could see that the man was wounded. But I was
firm. I tied the tie, got into the coat and waistcoat, and went into
"Halloa! Halloa! Halloa!" I said. "What?"
"Ah! How do you do, Mr. Wooster? You have never met my son, Wilmot, I
think? Motty, darling, this is Mr. Wooster."
Lady Malvern was a hearty, happy, healthy, overpowering sort of dashed
female, not so very tall but making up for it by measuring about six feet
from the O.P. to the Prompt Side. She fitted into my biggest arm-chair as
if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing
arm-chairs tight about the hips that season. She had bright, bulging
eyes and a lot of yellow hair, and when she spoke she showed about
fifty-seven front teeth. She was one of those women who kind of numb
a fellow's faculties. She made me feel as if I were ten years old and
had been brought into the drawing-room in my Sunday clothes to say
how-d'you-do. Altogether by no means the sort of thing a chappie would
wish to find in his sitting-room before breakfast.
Motty, the son, was about twenty-three, tall and thin and meek-looking.
He had the same yellow hair as his mother, but he wore it plastered
down and parted in the middle. His eyes bulged, too, but they weren't
bright. They were a dull grey with pink rims. His chin gave up the
struggle about half-way down, and he didn't appear to have any
eyelashes. A mild, furtive, sheepish sort of blighter, in short.
"Awfully glad to see you," I said. "So you've popped over, eh? Making a
long stay in America?"
"About a month. Your aunt gave me your address and told me to be sure
and call on you."
I was glad to hear this, as it showed that Aunt Agatha was beginning to
come round a bit. There had been some unpleasantness a year before,
when she had sent me over to New York to disentangle my Cousin Gussie
from the clutches of a girl on the music-hall stage. When I tell you
that by the time I had finished my operations, Gussie had not only
married the girl but had gone on the stage himself, and was doing well,
you'll understand that Aunt Agatha was upset to no small extent. I
simply hadn't dared go back and face her, and it was a relief to find
that time had healed the wound and all that sort of thing enough to
make her tell her pals to look me up. What I mean is, much as I liked
America, I didn't want to have England barred to me for the rest of my
natural; and, believe me, England is a jolly sight too small for anyone
to live in with Aunt Agatha, if she's really on the warpath. So I
braced on hearing these kind words and smiled genially on the
"Your aunt said that you would do anything that was in your power to be
of assistance to us."
"Rather? Oh, rather! Absolutely!"
"Thank you so much. I want you to put dear Motty up for a little
I didn't get this for a moment.
"Put him up? For my clubs?"
"No, no! Darling Motty is essentially a home bird. Aren't you, Motty
Motty, who was sucking the knob of his stick, uncorked himself.
"Yes, mother," he said, and corked himself up again.
"I should not like him to belong to clubs. I mean put him up here. Have
him to live with you while I am away."
These frightful words trickled out of her like honey. The woman simply
didn't seem to understand the ghastly nature of her proposal. I gave
Motty the swift east-to-west. He was sitting with his mouth nuzzling
the stick, blinking at the wall. The thought of having this planted on
me for an indefinite period appalled me. Absolutely appalled me, don't
you know. I was just starting to say that the shot wasn't on the board
at any price, and that the first sign Motty gave of trying to nestle
into my little home I would yell for the police, when she went on,
rolling placidly over me, as it were.
There was something about this woman that sapped a chappie's will-power.
"I am leaving New York by the midday train, as I have to pay a visit to
Sing-Sing prison. I am extremely interested in prison conditions in
America. After that I work my way gradually across to the coast,
visiting the points of interest on the journey. You see, Mr. Wooster, I
am in America principally on business. No doubt you read my book,
_India and the Indians_? My publishers are anxious for me to write
a companion volume on the United States. I shall not be able to spend
more than a month in the country, as I have to get back for the season,
but a month should be ample. I was less than a month in India, and my
dear friend Sir Roger Cremorne wrote his _America from Within_
after a stay of only two weeks. I should love to take dear Motty with
me, but the poor boy gets so sick when he travels by train. I shall
have to pick him up on my return."
From where I sat I could see Jeeves in the dining-room, laying the
breakfast-table. I wished I could have had a minute with him alone. I
felt certain that he would have been able to think of some way of
putting a stop to this woman.
"It will be such a relief to know that Motty is safe with you, Mr.
Wooster. I know what the temptations of a great city are. Hitherto dear
Motty has been sheltered from them. He has lived quietly with me in the
country. I know that you will look after him carefully, Mr. Wooster. He
will give very little trouble." She talked about the poor blighter as
if he wasn't there. Not that Motty seemed to mind. He had stopped
chewing his walking-stick and was sitting there with his mouth open.
"He is a vegetarian and a teetotaller and is devoted to reading. Give
him a nice book and he will be quite contented." She got up. "Thank you
so much, Mr. Wooster! I don't know what I should have done without your
help. Come, Motty! We have just time to see a few of the sights before
my train goes. But I shall have to rely on you for most of my
information about New York, darling. Be sure to keep your eyes open and
take notes of your impressions! It will be such a help. Good-bye, Mr.
Wooster. I will send Motty back early in the afternoon."
They went out, and I howled for Jeeves.
"Jeeves! What about it?"
"What's to be done? You heard it all, didn't you? You were in the
dining-room most of the time. That pill is coming to stay here."
"I beg your pardon, sir?"
I looked at Jeeves sharply. This sort of thing wasn't like him. It was
as if he were deliberately trying to give me the pip. Then I
understood. The man was really upset about that tie. He was trying to
get his own back.
"Lord Pershore will be staying here from to-night, Jeeves," I said
"Very good, sir. Breakfast is ready, sir."
I could have sobbed into the bacon and eggs. That there wasn't any
sympathy to be got out of Jeeves was what put the lid on it. For a
moment I almost weakened and told him to destroy the hat and tie if he
didn't like them, but I pulled myself together again. I was dashed if I
was going to let Jeeves treat me like a bally one-man chain-gang!
But, what with brooding on Jeeves and brooding on Motty, I was in a
pretty reduced sort of state. The more I examined the situation, the
more blighted it became. There was nothing I could do. If I slung Motty
out, he would report to his mother, and she would pass it on to Aunt
Agatha, and I didn't like to think what would happen then. Sooner or
later, I should be wanting to go back to England, and I didn't want to
get there and find Aunt Agatha waiting on the quay for me with a
stuffed eelskin. There was absolutely nothing for it but to put the
fellow up and make the best of it.
About midday Motty's luggage arrived, and soon afterward a large parcel
of what I took to be nice books. I brightened up a little when I saw
it. It was one of those massive parcels and looked as if it had enough
in it to keep the chappie busy for a year. I felt a trifle more
cheerful, and I got my Country Gentleman hat and stuck it on my head,
and gave the pink tie a twist, and reeled out to take a bite of lunch
with one or two of the lads at a neighbouring hostelry; and what with
excellent browsing and sluicing and cheery conversation and what-not,
the afternoon passed quite happily. By dinner-time I had almost
forgotten blighted Motty's existence.
I dined at the club and looked in at a show afterward, and it wasn't
till fairly late that I got back to the flat. There were no signs of
Motty, and I took it that he had gone to bed.
It seemed rummy to me, though, that the parcel of nice books was still
there with the string and paper on it. It looked as if Motty, after
seeing mother off at the station, had decided to call it a day.
Jeeves came in with the nightly whisky-and-soda. I could tell by the
chappie's manner that he was still upset.
"Lord Pershore gone to bed, Jeeves?" I asked, with reserved hauteur and
"No, sir. His lordship has not yet returned."
"Not returned? What do you mean?"
"His lordship came in shortly after six-thirty, and, having dressed,
went out again."
At this moment there was a noise outside the front door, a sort of
scrabbling noise, as if somebody were trying to paw his way through the
woodwork. Then a sort of thud.
"Better go and see what that is, Jeeves."
"Very good, sir."
He went out and came back again.
"If you would not mind stepping this way, sir, I think we might be able
to carry him in."
"Carry him in?"
"His lordship is lying on the mat, sir."
I went to the front door. The man was right. There was Motty huddled up
outside on the floor. He was moaning a bit.
"He's had some sort of dashed fit," I said. I took another look.
"Jeeves! Someone's been feeding him meat!"
"He's a vegetarian, you know. He must have been digging into a steak or
something. Call up a doctor!"
"I hardly think it will be necessary, sir. If you would take his
lordship's legs, while I----"
"Great Scot, Jeeves! You don't think--he can't be----"
"I am inclined to think so, sir."
And, by Jove, he was right! Once on the right track, you couldn't
mistake it. Motty was under the surface.
It was the deuce of a shock.
"You never can tell, Jeeves!"
"Very seldom, sir."
"Remove the eye of authority and where are you?"
"Where is my wandering boy to-night and all that sort of thing, what?"
"It would seem so, sir."
"Well, we had better bring him in, eh?"
So we lugged him in, and Jeeves put him to bed, and I lit a cigarette
and sat down to think the thing over. I had a kind of foreboding. It
seemed to me that I had let myself in for something pretty rocky.
Next morning, after I had sucked down a thoughtful cup of tea, I went
into Motty's room to investigate. I expected to find the fellow a
wreck, but there he was, sitting up in bed, quite chirpy, reading
"What ho!" I said.
"What ho!" said Motty.
"What ho! What ho!"
"What ho! What ho! What ho!"
After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.
"How are you feeling this morning?" I asked.
"Topping!" replied Motty, blithely and with abandon. "I say, you know,
that fellow of yours--Jeeves, you know--is a corker. I had a most
frightful headache when I woke up, and he brought me a sort of rummy
dark drink, and it put me right again at once. Said it was his own
invention. I must see more of that lad. He seems to me distinctly one
of the ones!"
I couldn't believe that this was the same blighter who had sat and
sucked his stick the day before.
"You ate something that disagreed with you last night, didn't you?" I
said, by way of giving him a chance to slide out of it if he wanted to.
But he wouldn't have it, at any price.
"No!" he replied firmly. "I didn't do anything of the kind. I drank too
much! Much too much. Lots and lots too much! And, what's more, I'm
going to do it again! I'm going to do it every night. If ever you see
me sober, old top," he said, with a kind of holy exaltation, "tap me on
the shoulder and say, 'Tut! Tut!' and I'll apologize and remedy the
"But I say, you know, what about me?"
"What about you?"
"Well, I'm so to speak, as it were, kind of responsible for you. What I
mean to say is, if you go doing this sort of thing I'm apt to get in
the soup somewhat."
"I can't help your troubles," said Motty firmly. "Listen to me, old
thing: this is the first time in my life that I've had a real chance to
yield to the temptations of a great city. What's the use of a great
city having temptations if fellows don't yield to them? Makes it so
bally discouraging for a great city. Besides, mother told me to keep my
eyes open and collect impressions."
I sat on the edge of the bed. I felt dizzy.
"I know just how you feel, old dear," said Motty consolingly. "And, if
my principles would permit it, I would simmer down for your sake. But
duty first! This is the first time I've been let out alone, and I mean
to make the most of it. We're only young once. Why interfere with
life's morning? Young man, rejoice in thy youth! Tra-la! What ho!"
Put like that, it did seem reasonable.
"All my bally life, dear boy," Motty went on, "I've been cooped up in
the ancestral home at Much Middlefold, in Shropshire, and till you've
been cooped up in Much Middlefold you don't know what cooping is! The
only time we get any excitement is when one of the choir-boys is caught
sucking chocolate during the sermon. When that happens, we talk about
it for days. I've got about a month of New York, and I mean to store up
a few happy memories for the long winter evenings. This is my only
chance to collect a past, and I'm going to do it. Now tell me, old
sport, as man to man, how does one get in touch with that very decent
chappie Jeeves? Does one ring a bell or shout a bit? I should like to
discuss the subject of a good stiff b.-and-s. with him!"
* * * * *
I had had a sort of vague idea, don't you know, that if I stuck close
to Motty and went about the place with him, I might act as a bit of a
damper on the gaiety. What I mean is, I thought that if, when he was
being the life and soul of the party, he were to catch my reproving eye
he might ease up a trifle on the revelry. So the next night I took him
along to supper with me. It was the last time. I'm a quiet, peaceful
sort of chappie who has lived all his life in London, and I can't stand
the pace these swift sportsmen from the rural districts set. What I
mean to say is this, I'm all for rational enjoyment and so forth, but I
think a chappie makes himself conspicuous when he throws soft-boiled
eggs at the electric fan. And decent mirth and all that sort of thing
are all right, but I do bar dancing on tables and having to dash all
over the place dodging waiters, managers, and chuckers-out, just when
you want to sit still and digest.
Directly I managed to tear myself away that night and get home, I made
up my mind that this was jolly well the last time that I went about
with Motty. The only time I met him late at night after that was once
when I passed the door of a fairly low-down sort of restaurant and had
to step aside to dodge him as he sailed through the air _en route_
for the opposite pavement, with a muscular sort of looking chappie
peering out after him with a kind of gloomy satisfaction.
In a way, I couldn't help sympathizing with the fellow. He had about
four weeks to have the good time that ought to have been spread over
about ten years, and I didn't wonder at his wanting to be pretty busy.
I should have been just the same in his place. Still, there was no
denying that it was a bit thick. If it hadn't been for the thought of
Lady Malvern and Aunt Agatha in the background, I should have regarded
Motty's rapid work with an indulgent smile. But I couldn't get rid of
the feeling that, sooner or later, I was the lad who was scheduled to
get it behind the ear. And what with brooding on this prospect, and
sitting up in the old flat waiting for the familiar footstep, and
putting it to bed when it got there, and stealing into the sick-chamber
next morning to contemplate the wreckage, I was beginning to lose
weight. Absolutely becoming the good old shadow, I give you my honest
word. Starting at sudden noises and what-not.
And no sympathy from Jeeves. That was what cut me to the quick. The man
was still thoroughly pipped about the hat and tie, and simply wouldn't
rally round. One morning I wanted comforting so much that I sank the
pride of the Woosters and appealed to the fellow direct.
"Jeeves," I said, "this is getting a bit thick!"
"Sir?" Business and cold respectfulness.
"You know what I mean. This lad seems to have chucked all the
principles of a well-spent boyhood. He has got it up his nose!"
"Well, I shall get blamed, don't you know. You know what my Aunt Agatha
"Very well, then."
I waited a moment, but he wouldn't unbend.
"Jeeves," I said, "haven't you any scheme up your sleeve for coping
with this blighter?"
And he shimmered off to his lair. Obstinate devil! So dashed absurd,
don't you know. It wasn't as if there was anything wrong with that
Country Gentleman hat. It was a remarkably priceless effort, and much
admired by the lads. But, just because he preferred the Longacre, he
left me flat.
It was shortly after this that young Motty got the idea of bringing
pals back in the small hours to continue the gay revels in the home.
This was where I began to crack under the strain. You see, the part of
town where I was living wasn't the right place for that sort of thing.
I knew lots of chappies down Washington Square way who started the
evening at about 2 a.m.--artists and writers and what-not, who
frolicked considerably till checked by the arrival of the morning milk.
That was all right. They like that sort of thing down there. The
neighbours can't get to sleep unless there's someone dancing Hawaiian
dances over their heads. But on Fifty-seventh Street the atmosphere
wasn't right, and when Motty turned up at three in the morning with a
collection of hearty lads, who only stopped singing their college song
when they started singing "The Old Oaken Bucket," there was a marked
peevishness among the old settlers in the flats. The management was
extremely terse over the telephone at breakfast-time, and took a lot of
The next night I came home early, after a lonely dinner at a place
which I'd chosen because there didn't seem any chance of meeting Motty
there. The sitting-room was quite dark, and I was just moving to switch
on the light, when there was a sort of explosion and something collared
hold of my trouser-leg. Living with Motty had reduced me to such an
extent that I was simply unable to cope with this thing. I jumped
backward with a loud yell of anguish, and tumbled out into the hall
just as Jeeves came out of his den to see what the matter was.
"Did you call, sir?"
"Jeeves! There's something in there that grabs you by the leg!"
"That would be Rollo, sir."
"I would have warned you of his presence, but I did not hear you come
in. His temper is a little uncertain at present, as he has not yet
"Who the deuce is Rollo?"
"His lordship's bull-terrier, sir. His lordship won him in a raffle,
and tied him to the leg of the table. If you will allow me, sir, I will
go in and switch on the light."
There really is nobody like Jeeves. He walked straight into the
sitting-room, the biggest feat since Daniel and the lions' den, without
a quiver. What's more, his magnetism or whatever they call it was such
that the dashed animal, instead of pinning him by the leg, calmed down
as if he had had a bromide, and rolled over on his back with all his
paws in the air. If Jeeves had been his rich uncle he couldn't have
been more chummy. Yet directly he caught sight of me again, he got all
worked up and seemed to have only one idea in life--to start chewing me
where he had left off.
"Rollo is not used to you yet, sir," said Jeeves, regarding the bally
quadruped in an admiring sort of way. "He is an excellent watchdog."
"I don't want a watchdog to keep me out of my rooms."
"Well, what am I to do?"
"No doubt in time the animal will learn to discriminate, sir. He will
learn to distinguish your peculiar scent."
"What do you mean--my peculiar scent? Correct the impression that I
intend to hang about in the hall while life slips by, in the hope that
one of these days that dashed animal will decide that I smell all
right." I thought for a bit. "Jeeves!"
"I'm going away--to-morrow morning by the first train. I shall go and
stop with Mr. Todd in the country."
"Do you wish me to accompany you, sir?"
"Very good, sir."
"I don't know when I shall be back. Forward my letters."
* * * * *
As a matter of fact, I was back within the week. Rocky Todd, the pal I
went to stay with, is a rummy sort of a chap who lives all alone in the
wilds of Long Island, and likes it; but a little of that sort of thing
goes a long way with me. Dear old Rocky is one of the best, but after a
few days in his cottage in the woods, miles away from anywhere, New
York, even with Motty on the premises, began to look pretty good to me.
The days down on Long Island have forty-eight hours in them; you can't
get to sleep at night because of the bellowing of the crickets; and you
have to walk two miles for a drink and six for an evening paper. I
thanked Rocky for his kind hospitality, and caught the only train they
have down in those parts. It landed me in New York about dinner-time. I
went straight to the old flat. Jeeves came out of his lair. I looked
round cautiously for Rollo.
"Where's that dog, Jeeves? Have you got him tied up?"
"The animal is no longer here, sir. His lordship gave him to the
porter, who sold him. His lordship took a prejudice against the animal
on account of being bitten by him in the calf of the leg."
I don't think I've ever been so bucked by a bit of news. I felt I had
misjudged Rollo. Evidently, when you got to know him better, he had a
lot of intelligence in him.
"Ripping!" I said. "Is Lord Pershore in, Jeeves?"
"Do you expect him back to dinner?"
"Where is he?"
"In prison, sir."
Have you ever trodden on a rake and had the handle jump up and hit you?
That's how I felt then.
"You don't mean--in prison?"
I lowered myself into a chair.
"Why?" I said.
"He assaulted a constable, sir."
"Lord Pershore assaulted a constable!"
I digested this.
"But, Jeeves, I say! This is frightful!"
"What will Lady Malvern say when she finds out?"
"I do not fancy that her ladyship will find out, sir."
"But she'll come back and want to know where he is."
"I rather fancy, sir, that his lordship's bit of time will have run out
"But supposing it hasn't?"
"In that event, sir, it may be judicious to prevaricate a little."
"If I might make the suggestion, sir, I should inform her ladyship that
his lordship has left for a short visit to Boston."
"Very interesting and respectable centre, sir."
"Jeeves, I believe you've hit it."
"I fancy so, sir."
"Why, this is really the best thing that could have happened. If this
hadn't turned up to prevent him, young Motty would have been in a
sanatorium by the time Lady Malvern got back."
The more I looked at it in that way, the sounder this prison wheeze
seemed to me. There was no doubt in the world that prison was just what
the doctor ordered for Motty. It was the only thing that could have
pulled him up. I was sorry for the poor blighter, but, after all, I
reflected, a chappie who had lived all his life with Lady Malvern, in a
small village in the interior of Shropshire, wouldn't have much to kick
at in a prison. Altogether, I began to feel absolutely braced again.
Life became like what the poet Johnnie says--one grand, sweet song.
Things went on so comfortably and peacefully for a couple of weeks that
I give you my word that I'd almost forgotten such a person as Motty
existed. The only flaw in the scheme of things was that Jeeves was
still pained and distant. It wasn't anything he said or did, mind you,
but there was a rummy something about him all the time. Once when I was
tying the pink tie I caught sight of him in the looking-glass. There
was a kind of grieved look in his eye.
And then Lady Malvern came back, a good bit ahead of schedule. I hadn't
been expecting her for days. I'd forgotten how time had been slipping
along. She turned up one morning while I was still in bed sipping tea
and thinking of this and that. Jeeves flowed in with the announcement
that he had just loosed her into the sitting-room. I draped a few
garments round me and went in.
There she was, sitting in the same arm-chair, looking as massive as
ever. The only difference was that she didn't uncover the teeth, as she
had done the first time.
"Good morning," I said. "So you've got back, what?"
"I have got back."
There was something sort of bleak about her tone, rather as if she had
swallowed an east wind. This I took to be due to the fact that she
probably hadn't breakfasted. It's only after a bit of breakfast that
I'm able to regard the world with that sunny cheeriness which makes a
fellow the universal favourite. I'm never much of a lad till I've
engulfed an egg or two and a beaker of coffee.
"I suppose you haven't breakfasted?"
"I have not yet breakfasted."
"Won't you have an egg or something? Or a sausage or something? Or
"No, thank you."
She spoke as if she belonged to an anti-sausage society or a league for
the suppression of eggs. There was a bit of a silence.
"I called on you last night," she said, "but you were out."
"Awfully sorry! Had a pleasant trip?"
"Extremely, thank you."
"See everything? Niag'ra Falls, Yellowstone Park, and the jolly old
Grand Canyon, and what-not?"
"I saw a great deal."
There was another slightly _frappé_ silence. Jeeves floated
silently into the dining-room and began to lay the breakfast-table.
"I hope Wilmot was not in your way, Mr. Wooster?"
I had been wondering when she was going to mention Motty.
"Rather not! Great pals! Hit it off splendidly."
"You were his constant companion, then?"
"Absolutely! We were always together. Saw all the sights, don't you
know. We'd take in the Museum of Art in the morning, and have a bit of
lunch at some good vegetarian place, and then toddle along to a sacred
concert in the afternoon, and home to an early dinner. We usually
played dominoes after dinner. And then the early bed and the refreshing
sleep. We had a great time. I was awfully sorry when he went away to
"Oh! Wilmot is in Boston?"
"Yes. I ought to have let you know, but of course we didn't know where
you were. You were dodging all over the place like a snipe--I mean,
don't you know, dodging all over the place, and we couldn't get at you.
Yes, Motty went off to Boston."
"You're sure he went to Boston?"
"Oh, absolutely." I called out to Jeeves, who was now messing about in
the next room with forks and so forth: "Jeeves, Lord Pershore didn't
change his mind about going to Boston, did he?"
"I thought I was right. Yes, Motty went to Boston."
"Then how do you account, Mr. Wooster, for the fact that when I went
yesterday afternoon to Blackwell's Island prison, to secure material
for my book, I saw poor, dear Wilmot there, dressed in a striped suit,
seated beside a pile of stones with a hammer in his hands?"
I tried to think of something to say, but nothing came. A chappie has
to be a lot broader about the forehead than I am to handle a jolt like
this. I strained the old bean till it creaked, but between the collar
and the hair parting nothing stirred. I was dumb. Which was lucky,
because I wouldn't have had a chance to get any persiflage out of my
system. Lady Malvern collared the conversation. She had been bottling
it up, and now it came out with a rush:
"So this is how you have looked after my poor, dear boy, Mr. Wooster!
So this is how you have abused my trust! I left him in your charge,
thinking that I could rely on you to shield him from evil. He came to
you innocent, unversed in the ways of the world, confiding, unused to
the temptations of a large city, and you led him astray!"
I hadn't any remarks to make. All I could think of was the picture of
Aunt Agatha drinking all this in and reaching out to sharpen the
hatchet against my return.
Far away in the misty distance a soft voice spoke:
"If I might explain, your ladyship."
Jeeves had projected himself in from the dining-room and materialized
on the rug. Lady Malvern tried to freeze him with a look, but you can't
do that sort of thing to Jeeves. He is look-proof.
"I fancy, your ladyship, that you have misunderstood Mr. Wooster, and
that he may have given you the impression that he was in New York when
his lordship--was removed. When Mr. Wooster informed your ladyship that
his lordship had gone to Boston, he was relying on the version I had
given him of his lordship's movements. Mr. Wooster was away, visiting a
friend in the country, at the time, and knew nothing of the matter till
your ladyship informed him."
Lady Malvern gave a kind of grunt. It didn't rattle Jeeves.
"I feared Mr. Wooster might be disturbed if he knew the truth, as he is
so attached to his lordship and has taken such pains to look after him,
so I took the liberty of telling him that his lordship had gone away
for a visit. It might have been hard for Mr. Wooster to believe that
his lordship had gone to prison voluntarily and from the best motives,
but your ladyship, knowing him better, will readily understand."
"What!" Lady Malvern goggled at him. "Did you say that Lord Pershore
went to prison voluntarily?"
"If I might explain, your ladyship. I think that your ladyship's
parting words made a deep impression on his lordship. I have frequently
heard him speak to Mr. Wooster of his desire to do something to follow
your ladyship's instructions and collect material for your ladyship's
book on America. Mr. Wooster will bear me out when I say that his
lordship was frequently extremely depressed at the thought that he was
doing so little to help."
"Absolutely, by Jove! Quite pipped about it!" I said.
"The idea of making a personal examination into the prison system of
the country--from within--occurred to his lordship very suddenly one
night. He embraced it eagerly. There was no restraining him."
Lady Malvern looked at Jeeves, then at me, then at Jeeves again. I
could see her struggling with the thing.
"Surely, your ladyship," said Jeeves, "it is more reasonable to suppose
that a gentleman of his lordship's character went to prison of his own
volition than that he committed some breach of the law which
necessitated his arrest?"
Lady Malvern blinked. Then she got up.
"Mr. Wooster," she said, "I apologize. I have done you an injustice. I
should have known Wilmot better. I should have had more faith in his
pure, fine spirit."
"Absolutely!" I said.
"Your breakfast is ready, sir," said Jeeves.
I sat down and dallied in a dazed sort of way with a poached egg.
"Jeeves," I said, "you are certainly a life-saver!"
"Thank you, sir."
"Nothing would have convinced my Aunt Agatha that I hadn't lured that
blighter into riotous living."
"I fancy you are right, sir."
I champed my egg for a bit. I was most awfully moved, don't you know,
by the way Jeeves had rallied round. Something seemed to tell me that
this was an occasion that called for rich rewards. For a moment I
hesitated. Then I made up my mind.
"That pink tie!"
"Thank you, sir."
"Take a taxi and get me that Longacre hat, as worn by John Drew!"
"Thank you very much, sir."
I felt most awfully braced. I felt as if the clouds had rolled away and
all was as it used to be. I felt like one of those chappies in the
novels who calls off the fight with his wife in the last chapter and
decides to forget and forgive. I felt I wanted to do all sorts of other
things to show Jeeves that I appreciated him.
"Jeeves," I said, "it isn't enough. Is there anything else you would
"Yes, sir. If I may make the suggestion--fifty dollars."
"It will enable me to pay a debt of honour, sir. I owe it to his
"You owe Lord Pershore fifty dollars?"
"Yes, sir. I happened to meet him in the street the night his lordship
was arrested. I had been thinking a good deal about the most suitable
method of inducing him to abandon his mode of living, sir. His lordship
was a little over-excited at the time and I fancy that he mistook me
for a friend of his. At any rate when I took the liberty of wagering
him fifty dollars that he would not punch a passing policeman in the
eye, he accepted the bet very cordially and won it."
I produced my pocket-book and counted out a hundred.
"Take this, Jeeves," I said; "fifty isn't enough. Do you know, Jeeves,
you're--well, you absolutely stand alone!"
"I endeavour to give satisfaction, sir," said Jeeves.
JEEVES AND THE HARD-BOILED EGG
Sometimes of a morning, as I've sat in bed sucking down the early cup
of tea and watched my man Jeeves flitting about the room and putting
out the raiment for the day, I've wondered what the deuce I should do
if the fellow ever took it into his head to leave me. It's not so bad
now I'm in New York, but in London the anxiety was frightful. There
used to be all sorts of attempts on the part of low blighters to sneak
him away from me. Young Reggie Foljambe to my certain knowledge offered
him double what I was giving him, and Alistair Bingham-Reeves, who's
got a valet who had been known to press his trousers sideways, used to
look at him, when he came to see me, with a kind of glittering hungry
eye which disturbed me deucedly. Bally pirates!
The thing, you see, is that Jeeves is so dashed competent. You can spot
it even in the way he shoves studs into a shirt.
I rely on him absolutely in every crisis, and he never lets me down.
And, what's more, he can always be counted on to extend himself
on behalf of any pal of mine who happens to be to all appearances
knee-deep in the bouillon. Take the rather rummy case, for instance,
of dear old Bicky and his uncle, the hard-boiled egg.
It happened after I had been in America for a few months. I got back to
the flat latish one night, and when Jeeves brought me the final drink
"Mr. Bickersteth called to see you this evening, sir, while you were
"Oh?" I said.
"Twice, sir. He appeared a trifle agitated."
"He gave that impression, sir."
I sipped the whisky. I was sorry if Bicky was in trouble, but, as a
matter of fact, I was rather glad to have something I could discuss
freely with Jeeves just then, because things had been a bit strained
between us for some time, and it had been rather difficult to hit on
anything to talk about that wasn't apt to take a personal turn. You
see, I had decided--rightly or wrongly--to grow a moustache and this
had cut Jeeves to the quick. He couldn't stick the thing at any price,
and I had been living ever since in an atmosphere of bally disapproval
till I was getting jolly well fed up with it. What I mean is, while
there's no doubt that in certain matters of dress Jeeves's judgment is
absolutely sound and should be followed, it seemed to me that it was
getting a bit too thick if he was going to edit my face as well as my
costume. No one can call me an unreasonable chappie, and many's the
time I've given in like a lamb when Jeeves has voted against one of my
pet suits or ties; but when it comes to a valet's staking out a claim
on your upper lip you've simply got to have a bit of the good old
bulldog pluck and defy the blighter.
"He said that he would call again later, sir."
"Something must be up, Jeeves."
I gave the moustache a thoughtful twirl. It seemed to hurt Jeeves a
good deal, so I chucked it.
"I see by the paper, sir, that Mr. Bickersteth's uncle is arriving on
"His Grace the Duke of Chiswick, sir."
This was news to me, that Bicky's uncle was a duke. Rum, how little one
knows about one's pals! I had met Bicky for the first time at a species
of beano or jamboree down in Washington Square, not long after my
arrival in New York. I suppose I was a bit homesick at the time, and I
rather took to Bicky when I found that he was an Englishman and had, in
fact, been up at Oxford with me. Besides, he was a frightful chump, so
we naturally drifted together; and while we were taking a quiet snort
in a corner that wasn't all cluttered up with artists and sculptors and
what-not, he furthermore endeared himself to me by a most extraordinarily
gifted imitation of a bull-terrier chasing a cat up a tree. But, though
we had subsequently become extremely pally, all I really knew about him
was that he was generally hard up, and had an uncle who relieved the
strain a bit from time to time by sending him monthly remittances.
"If the Duke of Chiswick is his uncle," I said, "why hasn't he a title?
Why isn't he Lord What-Not?"
"Mr. Bickersteth is the son of his grace's late sister, sir, who
married Captain Rollo Bickersteth of the Coldstream Guards."
Jeeves knows everything.
"Is Mr. Bickersteth's father dead, too?"
"Leave any money?"
I began to understand why poor old Bicky was always more or less on the
rocks. To the casual and irreflective observer, if you know what I
mean, it may sound a pretty good wheeze having a duke for an uncle, but
the trouble about old Chiswick was that, though an extremely wealthy
old buster, owning half London and about five counties up north, he was
notoriously the most prudent spender in England. He was what American
chappies would call a hard-boiled egg. If Bicky's people hadn't left
him anything and he depended on what he could prise out of the old
duke, he was in a pretty bad way. Not that that explained why he was
hunting me like this, because he was a chap who never borrowed money.
He said he wanted to keep his pals, so never bit any one's ear on
At this juncture the door bell rang. Jeeves floated out to answer it.
"Yes, sir. Mr. Wooster has just returned," I heard him say. And Bicky
came trickling in, looking pretty sorry for himself.
"Halloa, Bicky!" I said. "Jeeves told me you had been trying to get me.
Jeeves, bring another glass, and let the revels commence. What's the
"I'm in a hole, Bertie. I want your advice."
"Say on, old lad!"
"My uncle's turning up to-morrow, Bertie."
"So Jeeves told me."
"The Duke of Chiswick, you know."
"So Jeeves told me."
Bicky seemed a bit surprised.
"Jeeves seems to know everything."
"Rather rummily, that's exactly what I was thinking
just now myself."
"Well, I wish," said Bicky gloomily, "that he knew a way to get me out
of the hole I'm in."
Jeeves shimmered in with the glass, and stuck it competently on the
"Mr. Bickersteth is in a bit of a hole, Jeeves," I said, "and wants you
to rally round."
"Very good, sir."
Bicky looked a bit doubtful.
"Well, of course, you know, Bertie, this thing is by way of being a bit
private and all that."
"I shouldn't worry about that, old top. I bet Jeeves knows all about it
already. Don't you, Jeeves?"
"Eh!" said Bicky, rattled.
"I am open to correction, sir, but is not your dilemma due to the fact
that you are at a loss to explain to his grace why you are in New York
instead of in Colorado?"
Bicky rocked like a jelly in a high wind.
"How the deuce do you know anything about it?"
"I chanced to meet his grace's butler before we left England. He
informed me that he happened to overhear his grace speaking to you on
the matter, sir, as he passed the library door."
Bicky gave a hollow sort of laugh.
"Well, as everybody seems to know all about it, there's no need to try
to keep it dark. The old boy turfed me out, Bertie, because he said I
was a brainless nincompoop. The idea was that he would give me a
remittance on condition that I dashed out to some blighted locality of
the name of Colorado and learned farming or ranching, or whatever they
call it, at some bally ranch or farm or whatever it's called. I didn't
fancy the idea a bit. I should have had to ride horses and pursue cows,
and so forth. I hate horses. They bite at you. I was all against the
scheme. At the same time, don't you know, I had to have that
"I get you absolutely, dear boy."
"Well, when I got to New York it looked a decent sort of place to me,
so I thought it would be a pretty sound notion to stop here. So I
cabled to my uncle telling him that I had dropped into a good business
wheeze in the city and wanted to chuck the ranch idea. He wrote back
that it was all right, and here I've been ever since. He thinks I'm
doing well at something or other over here. I never dreamed, don't you
know, that he would ever come out here. What on earth am I to do?"
"Jeeves," I said, "what on earth is Mr. Bickersteth to do?"
"You see," said Bicky, "I had a wireless from him to say that he was
coming to stay with me--to save hotel bills, I suppose. I've always
given him the impression that I was living in pretty good style. I
can't have him to stay at my boarding-house."
"Thought of anything, Jeeves?" I said.
"To what extent, sir, if the question is not a delicate one, are you
prepared to assist Mr. Bickersteth?"
"I'll do anything I can for you, of course, Bicky, old man."
"Then, if I might make the suggestion, sir, you might lend Mr.
"No, by Jove!" said Bicky firmly. "I never have touched you, Bertie,
and I'm not going to start now. I may be a chump, but it's my boast
that I don't owe a penny to a single soul--not counting tradesmen, of
"I was about to suggest, sir, that you might lend Mr. Bickersteth this
flat. Mr. Bickersteth could give his grace the impression that he was
the owner of it. With your permission I could convey the notion that I
was in Mr. Bickersteth's employment, and not in yours. You would be
residing here temporarily as Mr. Bickersteth's guest. His grace would
occupy the second spare bedroom. I fancy that you would find this
answer satisfactorily, sir."
Bicky had stopped rocking himself and was staring at Jeeves in an awed
sort of way.
"I would advocate the dispatching of a wireless message to his grace
on board the vessel, notifying him of the change of address. Mr.
Bickersteth could meet his grace at the dock and proceed directly here.
Will that meet the situation, sir?"
"Thank you, sir."
Bicky followed him with his eye till the door closed.
"How does he do it, Bertie?" he said. "I'll tell you what I think it
is. I believe it's something to do with the shape of his head. Have you
ever noticed his head, Bertie, old man? It sort of sticks out at the
* * * * *
I hopped out of bed early next morning, so as to be among those present
when the old boy should arrive. I knew from experience that these ocean
liners fetch up at the dock at a deucedly ungodly hour. It wasn't much
after nine by the time I'd dressed and had my morning tea and was
leaning out of the window, watching the street for Bicky and his uncle.
It was one of those jolly, peaceful mornings that make a chappie wish
he'd got a soul or something, and I was just brooding on life in
general when I became aware of the dickens of a spate in progress down
below. A taxi had driven up, and an old boy in a top hat had got out
and was kicking up a frightful row about the fare. As far as I could
make out, he was trying to get the cab chappie to switch from New York
to London prices, and the cab chappie had apparently never heard of
London before, and didn't seem to think a lot of it now. The old boy
said that in London the trip would have set him back eightpence; and
the cabby said he should worry. I called to Jeeves.
"The duke has arrived, Jeeves."
"That'll be him at the door now."
Jeeves made a long arm and opened the front door, and the old boy
crawled in, looking licked to a splinter.
"How do you do, sir?" I said, bustling up and being the ray of
sunshine. "Your nephew went down to the dock to meet you, but you must
have missed him. My name's Wooster, don't you know. Great pal of
Bicky's, and all that sort of thing. I'm staying with him, you know.
Would you like a cup of tea? Jeeves, bring a cup of tea."
Old Chiswick had sunk into an arm-chair and was looking about the room.
"Does this luxurious flat belong to my nephew Francis?"
"It must be terribly expensive."
"Pretty well, of course. Everything costs a lot over here, you know."
He moaned. Jeeves filtered in with the tea. Old Chiswick took a stab at
it to restore his tissues, and nodded.
"A terrible country, Mr. Wooster! A terrible country! Nearly eight
shillings for a short cab-drive! Iniquitous!" He took another look
round the room. It seemed to fascinate him. "Have you any idea how
much my nephew pays for this flat, Mr. Wooster?"
"About two hundred dollars a month, I believe."
"What! Forty pounds a month!"
I began to see that, unless I made the thing a bit more plausible, the
scheme might turn out a frost. I could guess what the old boy was
thinking. He was trying to square all this prosperity with what he knew
of poor old Bicky. And one had to admit that it took a lot of squaring,
for dear old Bicky, though a stout fellow and absolutely unrivalled as
an imitator of bull-terriers and cats, was in many ways one of the most
pronounced fatheads that ever pulled on a suit of gent's underwear.
"I suppose it seems rummy to you," I said, "but the fact is New York
often bucks chappies up and makes them show a flash of speed that you
wouldn't have imagined them capable of. It sort of develops them.
Something in the air, don't you know. I imagine that Bicky in the past,
when you knew him, may have been something of a chump, but it's quite
different now. Devilish efficient sort of chappie, and looked on in
commercial circles as quite the nib!"
"I am amazed! What is the nature of my nephew's business, Mr. Wooster?"
"Oh, just business, don't you know. The same sort of thing Carnegie and
Rockefeller and all these coves do, you know." I slid for the door.
"Awfully sorry to leave you, but I've got to meet some of the lads
Coming out of the lift I met Bicky bustling in from the street.
"Halloa, Bertie! I missed him. Has he turned up?"
"He's upstairs now, having some tea."
"What does he think of it all?"
"He's absolutely rattled."
"Ripping! I'll be toddling up, then. Toodle-oo, Bertie, old man. See
"Pip-pip, Bicky, dear boy."
He trotted off, full of merriment and good cheer, and I went off to the
club to sit in the window and watch the traffic coming up one way and
going down the other.
It was latish in the evening when I looked in at the flat to dress for
"Where's everybody, Jeeves?" I said, finding no little feet pattering
about the place. "Gone out?"
"His grace desired to see some of the sights of the city, sir. Mr.
Bickersteth is acting as his escort. I fancy their immediate objective
was Grant's Tomb."
"I suppose Mr. Bickersteth is a bit braced at the way things are
"I say, I take it that Mr. Bickersteth is tolerably full of beans."
"Not altogether, sir."
"What's his trouble now?"
"The scheme which I took the liberty of suggesting to Mr. Bickersteth
and yourself has, unfortunately, not answered entirely satisfactorily,
"Surely the duke believes that Mr. Bickersteth is doing well in
business, and all that sort of thing?"
"Exactly, sir. With the result that he has decided to cancel Mr.
Bickersteth's monthly allowance, on the ground that, as Mr. Bickersteth
is doing so well on his own account, he no longer requires pecuniary
"Great Scot, Jeeves! This is awful."
"Somewhat disturbing, sir."
"I never expected anything like this!"
"I confess I scarcely anticipated the contingency myself, sir."
"I suppose it bowled the poor blighter over absolutely?"
"Mr. Bickersteth appeared somewhat taken aback, sir."
My heart bled for Bicky.
"We must do something, Jeeves."
"Can you think of anything?"
"Not at the moment, sir."
"There must be something we can do."
"It was a maxim of one of my former employers, sir--as I believe I
mentioned to you once before--the present Lord Bridgnorth, that there
is always a way. I remember his lordship using the expression on the
occasion--he was then a business gentleman and had not yet received his
title--when a patent hair-restorer which he chanced to be promoting
failed to attract the public. He put it on the market under another
name as a depilatory, and amassed a substantial fortune. I have
generally found his lordship's aphorism based on sound foundations. No
doubt we shall be able to discover some solution of Mr. Bickersteth's
"Well, have a stab at it, Jeeves!"
"I will spare no pains, sir."
I went and dressed sadly. It will show you pretty well how pipped I was
when I tell you that I near as a toucher put on a white tie with a
dinner-jacket. I sallied out for a bit of food more to pass the time
than because I wanted it. It seemed brutal to be wading into the bill
of fare with poor old Bicky headed for the breadline.
When I got back old Chiswick had gone to bed, but Bicky was there,
hunched up in an arm-chair, brooding pretty tensely, with a cigarette
hanging out of the corner of his mouth and a more or less glassy stare
in his eyes. He had the aspect of one who had been soaked with what the
newspaper chappies call "some blunt instrument."
"This is a bit thick, old thing--what!" I said.
He picked up his glass and drained it feverishly, overlooking the fact
that it hadn't anything in it.
"I'm done, Bertie!" he said.
He had another go at the glass. It didn't seem to do him any good.
"If only this had happened a week later, Bertie! My next month's money
was due to roll in on Saturday. I could have worked a wheeze I've been
reading about in the magazine advertisements. It seems that you can
make a dashed amount of money if you can only collect a few dollars
and start a chicken-farm. Jolly sound scheme, Bertie! Say you buy a
hen--call it one hen for the sake of argument. It lays an egg every
day of the week. You sell the eggs seven for twenty-five cents. Keep
of hen costs nothing. Profit practically twenty-five cents on every
seven eggs. Or look at it another way: Suppose you have a dozen eggs.
Each of the hens has a dozen chickens. The chickens grow up and have
more chickens. Why, in no time you'd have the place covered knee-deep
in hens, all laying eggs, at twenty-five cents for every seven. You'd
make a fortune. Jolly life, too, keeping hens!" He had begun to get
quite worked up at the thought of it, but he slopped back in his chair
at this juncture with a good deal of gloom. "But, of course, it's no
good," he said, "because I haven't the cash."
"You've only to say the word, you know, Bicky, old top."
"Thanks awfully, Bertie, but I'm not going to sponge on you."
That's always the way in this world. The chappies you'd like to lend
money to won't let you, whereas the chappies you don't want to lend it
to will do everything except actually stand you on your head and lift
the specie out of your pockets. As a lad who has always rolled
tolerably free in the right stuff, I've had lots of experience of the
second class. Many's the time, back in London, I've hurried along
Piccadilly and felt the hot breath of the toucher on the back of my
neck and heard his sharp, excited yapping as he closed in on me. I've
simply spent my life scattering largesse to blighters I didn't care a
hang for; yet here was I now, dripping doubloons and pieces of eight
and longing to hand them over, and Bicky, poor fish, absolutely on his
uppers, not taking any at any price.
"Well, there's only one hope, then."
There was Jeeves, standing behind me, full of zeal. In this matter of
shimmering into rooms the chappie is rummy to a degree. You're sitting
in the old armchair, thinking of this and that, and then suddenly you
look up, and there he is. He moves from point to point with as little
uproar as a jelly fish. The thing startled poor old Bicky considerably.
He rose from his seat like a rocketing pheasant. I'm used to Jeeves
now, but often in the days when he first came to me I've bitten my
tongue freely on finding him unexpectedly in my midst.
"Did you call, sir?"
"Oh, there you are, Jeeves!"
"Jeeves, Mr. Bickersteth is still up the pole. Any ideas?"
"Why, yes, sir. Since we had our recent conversation I fancy I have
found what may prove a solution. I do not wish to appear to be taking a
liberty, sir, but I think that we have overlooked his grace's
potentialities as a source of revenue."
Bicky laughed, what I have sometimes seen described as a hollow,
mocking laugh, a sort of bitter cackle from the back of the throat,
rather like a gargle.
"I do not allude, sir," explained Jeeves, "to the possibility of
inducing his grace to part with money. I am taking the liberty of
regarding his grace in the light of an at present--if I may say
so--useless property, which is capable of being developed."
Bicky looked at me in a helpless kind of way. I'm bound to say I didn't
get it myself.
"Couldn't you make it a bit easier, Jeeves!"
"In a nutshell, sir, what I mean is this: His grace is, in a sense, a
prominent personage. The inhabitants of this country, as no doubt you
are aware, sir, are peculiarly addicted to shaking hands with prominent
personages. It occurred to me that Mr. Bickersteth or yourself might
know of persons who would be willing to pay a small fee--let us say two
dollars or three--for the privilege of an introduction, including
handshake, to his grace."
Bicky didn't seem to think much of it.
"Do you mean to say that anyone would be mug enough to part with solid
cash just to shake hands with my uncle?"
"I have an aunt, sir, who paid five shillings to a young fellow for
bringing a moving-picture actor to tea at her house one Sunday. It gave
her social standing among the neighbours."
"If you think it could be done----"
"I feel convinced of it, sir."
"What do you think, Bertie?"
"I'm for it, old boy, absolutely. A very brainy wheeze."
"Thank you, sir. Will there be anything further? Good night, sir."
And he floated out, leaving us to discuss details.
Until we started this business of floating old Chiswick as a money-making
proposition I had never realized what a perfectly foul time those Stock
Exchange chappies must have when the public isn't biting freely. Nowadays
I read that bit they put in the financial reports about "The market
opened quietly" with a sympathetic eye, for, by Jove, it certainly opened
quietly for us! You'd hardly believe how difficult it was to interest
the public and make them take a flutter on the old boy. By the end of the
week the only name we had on our list was a delicatessen-store keeper
down in Bicky's part of the town, and as he wanted us to take it out in
sliced ham instead of cash that didn't help much. There was a gleam of
light when the brother of Bicky's pawnbroker offered ten dollars, money
down, for an introduction to old Chiswick, but the deal fell through,
owing to its turning out that the chap was an anarchist and intended to
kick the old boy instead of shaking hands with him. At that, it took me
the deuce of a time to persuade Bicky not to grab the cash and let things
take their course. He seemed to regard the pawnbroker's brother rather as
a sportsman and benefactor of his species than otherwise.
The whole thing, I'm inclined to think, would have been off if it
hadn't been for Jeeves. There is no doubt that Jeeves is in a class of
his own. In the matter of brain and resource I don't think I have ever
met a chappie so supremely like mother made. He trickled into my room
one morning with a good old cup of tea, and intimated that there was
"Might I speak to you with regard to that matter of his grace, sir?"
"It's all off. We've decided to chuck it."
"It won't work. We can't get anybody to come."
"I fancy I can arrange that aspect of the matter, sir."
"Do you mean to say you've managed to get anybody?"
"Yes, sir. Eighty-seven gentlemen from Birdsburg, sir."
I sat up in bed and spilt the tea.
"Birdsburg, Missouri, sir."
"How did you get them?"
"I happened last night, sir, as you had intimated that you would be
absent from home, to attend a theatrical performance, and entered into
conversation between the acts with the occupant of the adjoining seat.
I had observed that he was wearing a somewhat ornate decoration in his
buttonhole, sir--a large blue button with the words 'Boost for
Birdsburg' upon it in red letters, scarcely a judicious addition to a
gentleman's evening costume. To my surprise I noticed that the
auditorium was full of persons similarly decorated. I ventured to
inquire the explanation, and was informed that these gentlemen, forming
a party of eighty-seven, are a convention from a town of the name if
Birdsburg, in the State of Missouri. Their visit, I gathered, was
purely of a social and pleasurable nature, and my informant spoke at
some length of the entertainments arranged for their stay in the city.
It was when he related with a considerable amount of satisfaction and
pride, that a deputation of their number had been introduced to and had
shaken hands with a well-known prizefighter, that it occurred to me to
broach the subject of his grace. To make a long story short, sir, I
have arranged, subject to your approval, that the entire convention
shall be presented to his grace to-morrow afternoon."
I was amazed. This chappie was a Napoleon.
"Eighty-seven, Jeeves. At how much a head?"
"I was obliged to agree to a reduction for quantity, sir. The terms
finally arrived at were one hundred and fifty dollars for the party."
I thought a bit.
"Payable in advance?"
"No, sir. I endeavoured to obtain payment in advance, but was not
"Well, any way, when we get it I'll make it up to five hundred.
Bicky'll never know. Do you suspect Mr. Bickersteth would suspect
anything, Jeeves, if I made it up to five hundred?"
"I fancy not, sir. Mr. Bickersteth is an agreeable gentleman, but not
"All right, then. After breakfast run down to the bank and get me some
"You know, you're a bit of a marvel, Jeeves."
"Thank you, sir."
"Very good, sir."
When I took dear old Bicky aside in the course of the morning and told
him what had happened he nearly broke down. He tottered into the
sitting-room and buttonholed old Chiswick, who was reading the comic
section of the morning paper with a kind of grim resolution.
"Uncle," he said, "are you doing anything special to-morrow afternoon?
I mean to say, I've asked a few of my pals in to meet you, don't you
The old boy cocked a speculative eye at him.
"There will be no reporters among them?"
"Reporters? Rather not! Why?"
"I refuse to be badgered by reporters. There were a number of adhesive
young men who endeavoured to elicit from me my views on America while
the boat was approaching the dock. I will not be subjected to this
"That'll be absolutely all right, uncle. There won't be a newspaper-man
in the place."
"In that case I shall be glad to make the acquaintance of your
"You'll shake hands with them and so forth?"
"I shall naturally order my behaviour according to the accepted rules
of civilized intercourse."
Bicky thanked him heartily and came off to lunch with me at the club,
where he babbled freely of hens, incubators, and other rotten things.
After mature consideration we had decided to unleash the Birdsburg
contingent on the old boy ten at a time. Jeeves brought his theatre pal
round to see us, and we arranged the whole thing with him. A very
decent chappie, but rather inclined to collar the conversation and turn
it in the direction of his home-town's new water-supply system. We
settled that, as an hour was about all he would be likely to stand,
each gang should consider itself entitled to seven minutes of the
duke's society by Jeeves's stop-watch, and that when their time was up
Jeeves should slide into the room and cough meaningly. Then we parted
with what I believe are called mutual expressions of goodwill, the
Birdsburg chappie extending a cordial invitation to us all to pop out
some day and take a look at the new water-supply system, for which we
Next day the deputation rolled in. The first shift consisted of the
cove we had met and nine others almost exactly like him in every
respect. They all looked deuced keen and businesslike, as if from youth
up they had been working in the office and catching the boss's eye and
what-not. They shook hands with the old boy with a good deal of
apparent satisfaction--all except one chappie, who seemed to be
brooding about something--and then they stood off and became chatty.
"What message have you for Birdsburg, Duke?" asked our pal.
The old boy seemed a bit rattled.
"I have never been to Birdsburg."
The chappie seemed pained.
"You should pay it a visit," he said. "The most rapidly-growing city in
the country. Boost for Birdsburg!"
"Boost for Birdsburg!" said the other chappies reverently.
The chappie who had been brooding suddenly gave tongue.
He was a stout sort of well-fed cove with one of those determined chins
and a cold eye.
The assemblage looked at him.
"As a matter of business," said the chappie--"mind you, I'm not
questioning anybody's good faith, but, as a matter of strict
business--I think this gentleman here ought to put himself on
record before witnesses as stating that he really is a duke."
"What do you mean, sir?" cried the old boy, getting purple.
"No offence, simply business. I'm not saying anything, mind you, but
there's one thing that seems kind of funny to me. This gentleman here
says his name's Mr. Bickersteth, as I understand it. Well, if you're
the Duke of Chiswick, why isn't he Lord Percy Something? I've read
English novels, and I know all about it."
"This is monstrous!"
"Now don't get hot under the collar. I'm only asking. I've a right to
know. You're going to take our money, so it's only fair that we should
see that we get our money's worth."
The water-supply cove chipped in:
"You're quite right, Simms. I overlooked that when making the
agreement. You see, gentlemen, as business men we've a right to
reasonable guarantees of good faith. We are paying Mr. Bickersteth here
a hundred and fifty dollars for this reception, and we naturally want
Old Chiswick gave Bicky a searching look; then he turned to the
water-supply chappie. He was frightfully calm.
"I can assure you that I know nothing of this," he said, quite
politely. "I should be grateful if you would explain."
"Well, we arranged with Mr. Bickersteth that eighty-seven citizens
of Birdsburg should have the privilege of meeting and shaking hands
with you for a financial consideration mutually arranged, and what my
friend Simms here means--and I'm with him--is that we have only Mr.
Bickersteth's word for it--and he is a stranger to us--that you are
the Duke of Chiswick at all."
Old Chiswick gulped.
"Allow me to assure you, sir," he said, in a rummy kind of voice, "that
I am the Duke of Chiswick."
"Then that's all right," said the chappie heartily. "That was all we
wanted to know. Let the thing go on."
"I am sorry to say," said old Chiswick, "that it cannot go on. I am
feeling a little tired. I fear I must ask to be excused."
"But there are seventy-seven of the boys waiting round the corner at
this moment, Duke, to be introduced to you."
"I fear I must disappoint them."
"But in that case the deal would have to be off."
"That is a matter for you and my nephew to discuss."
The chappie seemed troubled.
"You really won't meet the rest of them?"
"Well, then, I guess we'll be going."
They went out, and there was a pretty solid silence. Then old Chiswick
turned to Bicky:
Bicky didn't seem to have anything to say.
"Was it true what that man said?"
"What do you mean by playing this trick?"
Bicky seemed pretty well knocked out, so I put in a word.
"I think you'd better explain the whole thing, Bicky, old top."
Bicky's Adam's-apple jumped about a bit; then he started:
"You see, you had cut off my allowance, uncle, and I wanted a bit of
money to start a chicken farm. I mean to say it's an absolute cert if
you once get a bit of capital. You buy a hen, and it lays an egg every
day of the week, and you sell the eggs, say, seven for twenty-five
"Keep of hens cost nothing. Profit practically----"
"What is all this nonsense about hens? You led me to suppose you were a
substantial business man."
"Old Bicky rather exaggerated, sir," I said, helping the chappie out.
"The fact is, the poor old lad is absolutely dependent on that remittance
of yours, and when you cut it off, don't you know, he was pretty solidly
in the soup, and had to think of some way of closing in on a bit of the
ready pretty quick. That's why we thought of this handshaking scheme."
Old Chiswick foamed at the mouth.
"So you have lied to me! You have deliberately deceived me as to your
"Poor old Bicky didn't want to go to that ranch," I explained. "He
doesn't like cows and horses, but he rather thinks he would be hot
stuff among the hens. All he wants is a bit of capital. Don't you think
it would be rather a wheeze if you were to----"
"After what has happened? After this--this deceit and foolery? Not a
"Not a penny!"
There was a respectful cough in the background.
"If I might make a suggestion, sir?"
Jeeves was standing on the horizon, looking devilish brainy.
"Go ahead, Jeeves!" I said.
"I would merely suggest, sir, that if Mr. Bickersteth is in need of a
little ready money, and is at a loss to obtain it elsewhere, he might
secure the sum he requires by describing the occurrences of this
afternoon for the Sunday issue of one of the more spirited and
"By Jove!" I said.
"By George!" said Bicky.
"Great heavens!" said old Chiswick.
"Very good, sir," said Jeeves.
Bicky turned to old Chiswick with a gleaming eye.
"Jeeves is right. I'll do it! The _Chronicle_ would jump at it.
They eat that sort of stuff."
Old Chiswick gave a kind of moaning howl.
"I absolutely forbid you, Francis, to do this thing!"
"That's all very well," said Bicky, wonderfully braced, "but if I can't
get the money any other way----"
"Wait! Er--wait, my boy! You are so impetuous! We might arrange
"I won't go to that bally ranch."
"No, no! No, no, my boy! I would not suggest it. I would not for a
moment suggest it. I--I think----"
He seemed to have a bit of a struggle with himself. "I--I think that,
on the whole, it would be best if you returned with me to England. I--I
might--in fact, I think I see my way to doing--to--I might be able to
utilize your services in some secretarial position."
"I shouldn't mind that."
"I should not be able to offer you a salary, but, as you know, in
English political life the unpaid secretary is a recognized figure----"
"The only figure I'll recognize," said Bicky firmly, "is five hundred
quid a year, paid quarterly."
"My dear boy!"
"But your recompense, my dear Francis, would consist in the unrivalled
opportunities you would have, as my secretary, to gain experience, to
accustom yourself to the intricacies of political life, to--in fact,
you would be in an exceedingly advantageous position."
"Five hundred a year!" said Bicky, rolling it round his tongue. "Why,
that would be nothing to what I could make if I started a chicken farm.
It stands to reason. Suppose you have a dozen hens. Each of the hens
has a dozen chickens. After a bit the chickens grow up and have a dozen
chickens each themselves, and then they all start laying eggs! There's
a fortune in it. You can get anything you like for eggs in America.
Chappies keep them on ice for years and years, and don't sell them till
they fetch about a dollar a whirl. You don't think I'm going to chuck a
future like this for anything under five hundred o' goblins a year--what?"
A look of anguish passed over old Chiswick's face, then he seemed to be
resigned to it. "Very well, my boy," he said.
"What-o!" said Bicky. "All right, then."
"Jeeves," I said. Bicky had taken the old boy off to dinner to
celebrate, and we were alone. "Jeeves, this has been one of your best
"Thank you, sir."
"It beats me how you do it."
"The only trouble is you haven't got much out of it--what!"
"I fancy Mr. Bickersteth intends--I judge from his remarks--to signify
his appreciation of anything I have been fortunate enough to do to
assist him, at some later date when he is in a more favourable position
to do so."
"It isn't enough, Jeeves!"
It was a wrench, but I felt it was the only possible thing to be done.
"Bring my shaving things."
A gleam of hope shone in the chappie's eye, mixed with doubt.
"You mean, sir?"
"And shave off my moustache."
There was a moment's silence. I could see the fellow was deeply moved.
"Thank you very much indeed, sir," he said, in a low voice, and popped
I want to tell you all about dear old Bobbie Cardew. It's a most
interesting story. I can't put in any literary style and all that; but
I don't have to, don't you know, because it goes on its Moral Lesson.
If you're a man you mustn't miss it, because it'll be a warning to you;
and if you're a woman you won't want to, because it's all about how a
girl made a man feel pretty well fed up with things.
If you're a recent acquaintance of Bobbie's, you'll probably be
surprised to hear that there was a time when he was more remarkable for
the weakness of his memory than anything else. Dozens of fellows, who
have only met Bobbie since the change took place, have been surprised
when I told them that. Yet it's true. Believe _me_.
In the days when I first knew him Bobbie Cardew was about the most
pronounced young rotter inside the four-mile radius. People have called
me a silly ass, but I was never in the same class with Bobbie. When it
came to being a silly ass, he was a plus-four man, while my handicap
was about six. Why, if I wanted him to dine with me, I used to post him
a letter at the beginning of the week, and then the day before send him
a telegram and a phone-call on the day itself, and--half an hour before
the time we'd fixed--a messenger in a taxi, whose business it was to
see that he got in and that the chauffeur had the address all correct.
By doing this I generally managed to get him, unless he had left town
before my messenger arrived.
The funny thing was that he wasn't altogether a fool in other ways.
Deep down in him there was a kind of stratum of sense. I had known him,
once or twice, show an almost human intelligence. But to reach that
stratum, mind you, you needed dynamite.
At least, that's what I thought. But there was another way which hadn't
occurred to me. Marriage, I mean. Marriage, the dynamite of the soul;
that was what hit Bobbie. He married. Have you ever seen a bull-pup
chasing a bee? The pup sees the bee. It looks good to him. But he still
doesn't know what's at the end of it till he gets there. It was like
that with Bobbie. He fell in love, got married--with a sort of whoop,
as if it were the greatest fun in the world--and then began to find out
She wasn't the sort of girl you would have expected Bobbie to rave
about. And yet, I don't know. What I mean is, she worked for her
living; and to a fellow who has never done a hand's turn in his life
there's undoubtedly a sort of fascination, a kind of romance, about a
girl who works for her living.
Her name was Anthony. Mary Anthony. She was about five feet six; she
had a ton and a half of red-gold hair, grey eyes, and one of those
determined chins. She was a hospital nurse. When Bobbie smashed himself
up at polo, she was told off by the authorities to smooth his brow and
rally round with cooling unguents and all that; and the old boy hadn't
been up and about again for more than a week before they popped off to
the registrar's and fixed it up. Quite the romance.
Bobbie broke the news to me at the club one evening, and next day he
introduced me to her. I admired her. I've never worked myself--my
name's Pepper, by the way. Almost forgot to mention it. Reggie Pepper.
My uncle Edward was Pepper, Wells, and Co., the Colliery people. He
left me a sizable chunk of bullion--I say I've never worked myself, but
I admire any one who earns a living under difficulties, especially a
girl. And this girl had had a rather unusually tough time of it, being
an orphan and all that, and having had to do everything off her own bat
Mary and I got along together splendidly. We don't now, but we'll come
to that later. I'm speaking of the past. She seemed to think Bobbie the
greatest thing on earth, judging by the way she looked at him when she
thought I wasn't noticing. And Bobbie seemed to think the same about
her. So that I came to the conclusion that, if only dear old Bobbie
didn't forget to go to the wedding, they had a sporting chance of being
Well, let's brisk up a bit here, and jump a year. The story doesn't
really start till then.
They took a flat and settled down. I was in and out of the place quite
a good deal. I kept my eyes open, and everything seemed to me to be
running along as smoothly as you could want. If this was marriage, I
thought, I couldn't see why fellows were so frightened of it. There
were a lot of worse things that could happen to a man.
But we now come to the incident of the quiet Dinner, and it's just here
that love's young dream hits a snag, and things begin to occur.
I happened to meet Bobbie in Piccadilly, and he asked me to come back
to dinner at the flat. And, like a fool, instead of bolting and putting
myself under police protection, I went.
When we got to the flat, there was Mrs. Bobbie looking--well, I tell
you, it staggered me. Her gold hair was all piled up in waves and
crinkles and things, with a what-d'-you-call-it of diamonds in it. And
she was wearing the most perfectly ripping dress. I couldn't begin to
describe it. I can only say it was the limit. It struck me that if this
was how she was in the habit of looking every night when they were
dining quietly at home together, it was no wonder that Bobbie liked
"Here's old Reggie, dear," said Bobbie. "I've brought him home to have
a bit of dinner. I'll phone down to the kitchen and ask them to send it
She stared at him as if she had never seen him before. Then she turned
scarlet. Then she turned as white as a sheet. Then she gave a little
laugh. It was most interesting to watch. Made me wish I was up a tree
about eight hundred miles away. Then she recovered herself.
"I am so glad you were able to come, Mr. Pepper," she said, smiling at
And after that she was all right. At least, you would have said so. She
talked a lot at dinner, and chaffed Bobbie, and played us ragtime on
the piano afterwards, as if she hadn't a care in the world. Quite a jolly
little party it was--not. I'm no lynx-eyed sleuth, and all that sort of
thing, but I had seen her face at the beginning, and I knew that she was
working the whole time and working hard, to keep herself in hand, and
that she would have given that diamond what's-its-name in her hair and
everything else she possessed to have one good scream--just one. I've
sat through some pretty thick evenings in my time, but that one had the
rest beaten in a canter. At the very earliest moment I grabbed my hat and
Having seen what I did, I wasn't particularly surprised to meet Bobbie
at the club next day looking about as merry and bright as a lonely
gum-drop at an Eskimo tea-party.
He started in straightway. He seemed glad to have someone to talk to
"Do you know how long I've been married?" he said.
I didn't exactly.
"About a year, isn't it?"
"Not _about_ a year," he said sadly. "Exactly a year--yesterday!"
Then I understood. I saw light--a regular flash of light.
"The anniversary of the wedding. I'd arranged to take Mary to the
Savoy, and on to Covent Garden. She particularly wanted to hear Caruso.
I had the ticket for the box in my pocket. Do you know, all through
dinner I had a kind of rummy idea that there was something I'd
forgotten, but I couldn't think what?"
"Till your wife mentioned it?"
"She--mentioned it," he said thoughtfully.
I didn't ask for details. Women with hair and chins like Mary's may be
angels most of the time, but, when they take off their wings for a bit,
they aren't half-hearted about it.
"To be absolutely frank, old top," said poor old Bobbie, in a broken
sort of way, "my stock's pretty low at home."
There didn't seem much to be done. I just lit a cigarette and sat
there. He didn't want to talk. Presently he went out. I stood at the
window of our upper smoking-room, which looks out on to Piccadilly, and
watched him. He walked slowly along for a few yards, stopped, then
walked on again, and finally turned into a jeweller's. Which was an
instance of what I meant when I said that deep down in him there was a
certain stratum of sense.
* * * * *
It was from now on that I began to be really interested in this problem
of Bobbie's married life. Of course, one's always mildly interested in
one's friends' marriages, hoping they'll turn out well and all that;
but this was different. The average man isn't like Bobbie, and the
average girl isn't like Mary. It was that old business of the immovable
mass and the irresistible force. There was Bobbie, ambling gently
through life, a dear old chap in a hundred ways, but undoubtedly a
chump of the first water.
And there was Mary, determined that he shouldn't be a chump. And
Nature, mind you, on Bobbie's side. When Nature makes a chump like
dear old Bobbie, she's proud of him, and doesn't want her handiwork
disturbed. She gives him a sort of natural armour to protect him
against outside interference. And that armour is shortness of memory.
Shortness of memory keeps a man a chump, when, but for it, he might
cease to be one. Take my case, for instance. I'm a chump. Well, if I
had remembered half the things people have tried to teach me during my
life, my size in hats would be about number nine. But I didn't. I
forgot them. And it was just the same with Bobbie.
For about a week, perhaps a bit more, the recollection of that quiet
little domestic evening bucked him up like a tonic. Elephants, I read
somewhere, are champions at the memory business, but they were fools to
Bobbie during that week. But, bless you, the shock wasn't nearly big
enough. It had dinted the armour, but it hadn't made a hole in it.
Pretty soon he was back at the old game.
It was pathetic, don't you know. The poor girl loved him, and she was
frightened. It was the thin edge of the wedge, you see, and she knew
it. A man who forgets what day he was married, when he's been married
one year, will forget, at about the end of the fourth, that he's
married at all. If she meant to get him in hand at all, she had got to
do it now, before he began to drift away.
I saw that clearly enough, and I tried to make Bobbie see it, when he
was by way of pouring out his troubles to me one afternoon. I can't
remember what it was that he had forgotten the day before, but it was
something she had asked him to bring home for her--it may have been a
"It's such a little thing to make a fuss about," said Bobbie. "And she
knows that it's simply because I've got such an infernal memory about
everything. I can't remember anything. Never could."
He talked on for a while, and, just as he was going, he pulled out a
couple of sovereigns.
"Oh, by the way," he said.
"What's this for?" I asked, though I knew.
"I owe it you."
"How's that?" I said.
"Why, that bet on Tuesday. In the billiard-room. Murray and Brown were
playing a hundred up, and I gave you two to one that Brown would win,
and Murray beat him by twenty odd."
"So you do remember some things?" I said.
He got quite excited. Said that if I thought he was the sort of rotter
who forgot to pay when he lost a bet, it was pretty rotten of me after
knowing him all these years, and a lot more like that.
"Subside, laddie," I said.
Then I spoke to him like a father.
"What you've got to do, my old college chum," I said, "is to pull
yourself together, and jolly quick, too. As things are shaping, you're
due for a nasty knock before you know what's hit you. You've got to
make an effort. Don't say you can't. This two quid business shows that,
even if your memory is rocky, you can remember some things. What you've
got to do is to see that wedding anniversaries and so on are included
in the list. It may be a brainstrain, but you can't get out of it."
"I suppose you're right," said Bobbie. "But it beats me why she thinks
such a lot of these rotten little dates. What's it matter if I forgot
what day we were married on or what day she was born on or what day the
cat had the measles? She knows I love her just as much as if I were a
memorizing freak at the halls."
"That's not enough for a woman," I said. "They want to be shown. Bear
that in mind, and you're all right. Forget it, and there'll be
He chewed the knob of his stick.
"Women are frightfully rummy," he said gloomily.
"You should have thought of that before you married one," I said.
* * * * *
I don't see that I could have done any more. I had put the whole thing
in a nutshell for him. You would have thought he'd have seen the point,
and that it would have made him brace up and get a hold on himself. But
no. Off he went again in the same old way. I gave up arguing with him.
I had a good deal of time on my hands, but not enough to amount to
anything when it was a question of reforming dear old Bobbie by argument.
If you see a man asking for trouble, and insisting on getting it, the
only thing to do is to stand by and wait till it comes to him. After
that you may get a chance. But till then there's nothing to be done.
But I thought a lot about him.
Bobbie didn't get into the soup all at once. Weeks went by, and months,
and still nothing happened. Now and then he'd come into the club with a
kind of cloud on his shining morning face, and I'd know that there had
been doings in the home; but it wasn't till well on in the spring that
he got the thunderbolt just where he had been asking for it--in the
I was smoking a quiet cigarette one morning in the window looking out
over Piccadilly, and watching the buses and motors going up one way and
down the other--most interesting it is; I often do it--when in rushed
Bobbie, with his eyes bulging and his face the colour of an oyster,
waving a piece of paper in his hand.
"Reggie," he said. "Reggie, old top, she's gone!"
"Gone!" I said. "Who?"
"Mary, of course! Gone! Left me! Gone!"
"Where?" I said.
Silly question? Perhaps you're right. Anyhow, dear old Bobbie nearly
foamed at the mouth.
"Where? How should I know where? Here, read this."
He pushed the paper into my hand. It was a letter.
"Go on," said Bobbie. "Read it."
So I did. It certainly was quite a letter. There was not much of it,
but it was all to the point. This is what it said:
"MY DEAR BOBBIE,--I am going away. When you care enough about me
to remember to wish me many happy returns on my birthday, I will
come back. My address will be Box 341, _London Morning News_."
I read it twice, then I said, "Well, why don't you?"
"Why don't I what?"
"Why don't you wish her many happy returns? It doesn't seem much to
"But she says on her birthday."
"Well, when is her birthday?"
"Can't you understand?" said Bobbie. "I've forgotten."
"Forgotten!" I said.
"Yes," said Bobbie. "Forgotten."
"How do you mean, forgotten?" I said. "Forgotten whether it's the
twentieth or the twenty-first, or what? How near do you get to it?"
"I know it came somewhere between the first of January and the
thirty-first of December. That's how near I get to it."
"Think? What's the use of saying 'Think'? Think I haven't thought? I've
been knocking sparks out of my brain ever since I opened that letter."
"And you can't remember?"
I rang the bell and ordered restoratives.
"Well, Bobbie," I said, "it's a pretty hard case to spring on an
untrained amateur like me. Suppose someone had come to Sherlock Holmes
and said, 'Mr. Holmes, here's a case for you. When is my wife's
birthday?' Wouldn't that have given Sherlock a jolt? However, I know
enough about the game to understand that a fellow can't shoot off his
deductive theories unless you start him with a clue, so rouse yourself
out of that pop-eyed trance and come across with two or three. For
instance, can't you remember the last time she had a birthday? What
sort of weather was it? That might fix the month."
Bobbie shook his head.
"It was just ordinary weather, as near as I can recollect."
"Well, fairly cold, perhaps. I can't remember."
I ordered two more of the same. They seemed indicated in the Young
Detective's Manual. "You're a great help, Bobbie," I said. "An
invaluable assistant. One of those indispensable adjuncts without
which no home is complete."
Bobbie seemed to be thinking.
"I've got it," he said suddenly. "Look here. I gave her a present on
her last birthday. All we have to do is to go to the shop, hunt up the
date when it was bought, and the thing's done."
"Absolutely. What did you give her?"
"I can't remember," he said.
Getting ideas is like golf. Some days you're right off, others it's
as easy as falling off a log. I don't suppose dear old Bobbie had ever
had two ideas in the same morning before in his life; but now he did
it without an effort. He just loosed another dry Martini into the
undergrowth, and before you could turn round it had flushed quite a
Do you know those little books called _When were you Born_?
There's one for each month. They tell you your character, your talents,
your strong points, and your weak points at fourpence halfpenny a go.
Bobbie's idea was to buy the whole twelve, and go through them till we
found out which month hit off Mary's character. That would give us the
month, and narrow it down a whole lot.
A pretty hot idea for a non-thinker like dear old Bobbie. We sallied
out at once. He took half and I took half, and we settled down to work.
As I say, it sounded good. But when we came to go into the thing, we
saw that there was a flaw. There was plenty of information all right,
but there wasn't a single month that didn't have something that exactly
hit off Mary. For instance, in the December book it said, "December
people are apt to keep their own secrets. They are extensive travellers."
Well, Mary had certainly kept her secret, and she had travelled quite
extensively enough for Bobbie's needs. Then, October people were "born
with original ideas" and "loved moving." You couldn't have summed
up Mary's little jaunt more neatly. February people had "wonderful
We took a bit of a rest, then had another go at the thing.
Bobbie was all for May, because the book said that women born in that
month were "inclined to be capricious, which is always a barrier to a
happy married life"; but I plumped for February, because February women
"are unusually determined to have their own way, are very earnest, and
expect a full return in their companion or mates." Which he owned was
about as like Mary as anything could be.
In the end he tore the books up, stamped on them, burnt them, and went
It was wonderful what a change the next few days made in dear old
Bobbie. Have you ever seen that picture, "The Soul's Awakening"? It
represents a flapper of sorts gazing in a startled sort of way into the
middle distance with a look in her eyes that seems to say, "Surely that
is George's step I hear on the mat! Can this be love?" Well, Bobbie had
a soul's awakening too. I don't suppose he had ever troubled to think
in his life before--not really _think_. But now he was wearing his
brain to the bone. It was painful in a way, of course, to see a fellow
human being so thoroughly in the soup, but I felt strongly that it was
all for the best. I could see as plainly as possible that all these
brainstorms were improving Bobbie out of knowledge. When it was all
over he might possibly become a rotter again of a sort, but it would
only be a pale reflection of the rotter he had been. It bore out the
idea I had always had that what he needed was a real good jolt.
I saw a great deal of him these days. I was his best friend, and he
came to me for sympathy. I gave it him, too, with both hands, but I
never failed to hand him the Moral Lesson when I had him weak.
One day he came to me as I was sitting in the club, and I could see
that he had had an idea. He looked happier than he had done in weeks.
"Reggie," he said, "I'm on the trail. This time I'm convinced that I
shall pull it off. I've remembered something of vital importance."
"Yes?" I said.
"I remember distinctly," he said, "that on Mary's last birthday we went
together to the Coliseum. How does that hit you?"
"It's a fine bit of memorizing," I said; "but how does it help?"
"Why, they change the programme every week there."
"Ah!" I said. "Now you are talking."
"And the week we went one of the turns was Professor Some One's
Terpsichorean Cats. I recollect them distinctly. Now, are we narrowing
it down, or aren't we? Reggie, I'm going round to the Coliseum this
minute, and I'm going to dig the date of those Terpsichorean Cats out
of them, if I have to use a crowbar."
So that got him within six days; for the management treated us like
brothers; brought out the archives, and ran agile fingers over the
pages till they treed the cats in the middle of May.
"I told you it was May," said Bobbie. "Maybe you'll listen to me
"If you've any sense," I said, "there won't be another time."
And Bobbie said that there wouldn't.
Once you get your money on the run, it parts as if it enjoyed doing it.
I had just got off to sleep that night when my telephone-bell rang. It
was Bobbie, of course. He didn't apologize.
"Reggie," he said, "I've got it now for certain. It's just come to me.
We saw those Terpsichorean Cats at a matinee, old man."
"Yes?" I said.
"Well, don't you see that that brings it down to two days? It must have
been either Wednesday the seventh or Saturday the tenth."
"Yes," I said, "if they didn't have daily matinees at the Coliseum."
I heard him give a sort of howl.
"Bobbie," I said. My feet were freezing, but I was fond of him.
"I've remembered something too. It's this. The day you went to the
Coliseum I lunched with you both at the Ritz. You had forgotten to
bring any money with you, so you wrote a cheque."
"But I'm always writing cheques."
"You are. But this was for a tenner, and made out to the hotel. Hunt up
your cheque-book and see how many cheques for ten pounds payable to the
Ritz Hotel you wrote out between May the fifth and May the tenth."
He gave a kind of gulp.
"Reggie," he said, "you're a genius. I've always said so. I believe
you've got it. Hold the line."
Presently he came back again.
"Halloa!" he said.
"I'm here," I said.
"It was the eighth. Reggie, old man, I----"
"Topping," I said. "Good night."
It was working along into the small hours now, but I thought I might as
well make a night of it and finish the thing up, so I rang up an hotel
near the Strand.
"Put me through to Mrs. Cardew," I said.
"It's late," said the man at the other end.
"And getting later every minute," I said. "Buck along, laddie."
I waited patiently. I had missed my beauty-sleep, and my feet had
frozen hard, but I was past regrets.
"What is the matter?" said Mary's voice.
"My feet are cold," I said. "But I didn't call you up to tell you that
particularly. I've just been chatting with Bobbie, Mrs. Cardew."
"Oh! is that Mr. Pepper?"
"Yes. He's remembered it, Mrs. Cardew."
She gave a sort of scream. I've often thought how interesting it must
be to be one of those Exchange girls. The things they must hear, don't
you know. Bobbie's howl and gulp and Mrs. Bobbie's scream and all about
my feet and all that. Most interesting it must be.
"He's remembered it!" she gasped. "Did you tell him?"
Well, I hadn't.
"Was he--has he been--was he very worried?"
I chuckled. This was where I was billed to be the life and soul of the
"Worried! He was about the most worried man between here and Edinburgh.
He has been worrying as if he was paid to do it by the nation. He has
started out to worry after breakfast, and----"
Oh, well, you can never tell with women. My idea was that we should
pass the rest of the night slapping each other on the back across the
wire, and telling each other what bally brainy conspirators we were,
don't you know, and all that. But I'd got just as far as this, when she
bit at me. Absolutely! I heard the snap. And then she said "Oh!" in
that choked kind of way. And when a woman says "Oh!" like that, it
means all the bad words she'd love to say if she only knew them.
And then she began.
"What brutes men are! What horrid brutes! How you could stand by and
see poor dear Bobbie worrying himself into a fever, when a word from
you would have put everything right, I can't----"
"And you call yourself his friend! His friend!" (Metallic laugh, most
unpleasant.) "It shows how one can be deceived. I used to think you a
"But, I say, when I suggested the thing, you thought it perfectly----"
"I thought it hateful, abominable."
"But you said it was absolutely top----"
"I said nothing of the kind. And if I did, I didn't mean it. I don't
wish to be unjust, Mr. Pepper, but I must say that to me there seems to
be something positively fiendish in a man who can go out of his way to
separate a husband from his wife, simply in order to amuse himself by
gloating over his agony----"
"When one single word would have----"
"But you made me promise not to----" I bleated.
"And if I did, do you suppose I didn't expect you to have the sense to
break your promise?"
I had finished. I had no further observations to make. I hung up the
receiver, and crawled into bed.
* * * * *
I still see Bobbie when he comes to the club, but I do not visit
the old homestead. He is friendly, but he stops short of issuing
invitations. I ran across Mary at the Academy last week, and her eyes
went through me like a couple of bullets through a pat of butter. And
as they came out the other side, and I limped off to piece myself
together again, there occurred to me the simple epitaph which, when I
am no more, I intend to have inscribed on my tombstone. It was this:
"He was a man who acted from the best motives. There is one born every
I don't want to bore you, don't you know, and all that sort of rot, but
I must tell you about dear old Freddie Meadowes. I'm not a flier at
literary style, and all that, but I'll get some writer chappie to give
the thing a wash and brush up when I've finished, so that'll be all
Dear old Freddie, don't you know, has been a dear old pal of mine for
years and years; so when I went into the club one morning and found him
sitting alone in a dark corner, staring glassily at nothing, and
generally looking like the last rose of summer, you can understand I
was quite disturbed about it. As a rule, the old rotter is the life and
soul of our set. Quite the little lump of fun, and all that sort of
Jimmy Pinkerton was with me at the time. Jimmy's a fellow who writes
plays--a deuced brainy sort of fellow--and between us we set to work to
question the poor pop-eyed chappie, until finally we got at what the
As we might have guessed, it was a girl. He had had a quarrel with
Angela West, the girl he was engaged to, and she had broken off the
engagement. What the row had been about he didn't say, but apparently
she was pretty well fed up. She wouldn't let him come near her, refused
to talk on the phone, and sent back his letters unopened.
I was sorry for poor old Freddie. I knew what it felt like. I was once
in love myself with a girl called Elizabeth Shoolbred, and the fact
that she couldn't stand me at any price will be recorded in my
autobiography. I knew the thing for Freddie.
"Change of scene is what you want, old scout," I said. "Come with me to
Marvis Bay. I've taken a cottage there. Jimmy's coming down on the
twenty-fourth. We'll be a cosy party."
"He's absolutely right," said Jimmy. "Change of scene's the thing. I
knew a man. Girl refused him. Man went abroad. Two months later girl
wired him, 'Come back. Muriel.' Man started to write out a reply;
suddenly found that he couldn't remember girl's surname; so never
answered at all."
But Freddie wouldn't be comforted. He just went on looking as if he had
swallowed his last sixpence. However, I got him to promise to come to
Marvis Bay with me. He said he might as well be there as anywhere.
Do you know Marvis Bay? It's in Dorsetshire. It isn't what you'd call a
fiercely exciting spot, but it has its good points. You spend the day
there bathing and sitting on the sands, and in the evening you stroll
out on the shore with the gnats. At nine o'clock you rub ointment on
the wounds and go to bed.
It seemed to suit poor old Freddie. Once the moon was up and the breeze
sighing in the trees, you couldn't drag him from that beach with a
rope. He became quite a popular pet with the gnats. They'd hang round
waiting for him to come out, and would give perfectly good strollers
the miss-in-baulk just so as to be in good condition for him.
Yes, it was a peaceful sort of life, but by the end of the first week I
began to wish that Jimmy Pinkerton had arranged to come down earlier:
for as a companion Freddie, poor old chap, wasn't anything to write
home to mother about. When he wasn't chewing a pipe and scowling at the
carpet, he was sitting at the piano, playing "The Rosary" with one
finger. He couldn't play anything except "The Rosary," and he couldn't
play much of that. Somewhere round about the third bar a fuse would
blow out, and he'd have to start all over again.
He was playing it as usual one morning when I came in from bathing.
"Reggie," he said, in a hollow voice, looking up, "I've seen her."
"Seen her?" I said. "What, Miss West?"
"I was down at the post office, getting the letters, and we met in the
doorway. She cut me!"
He started "The Rosary" again, and side-slipped in the second bar.
"Reggie," he said, "you ought never to have brought me here. I must go
"Go away?" I said. "Don't talk such rot. This is the best thing that
could have happened. This is where you come out strong."
"She cut me."
"Never mind. Be a sportsman. Have another dash at her."
"She looked clean through me!"
"Of course she did. But don't mind that. Put this thing in my hands.
I'll see you through. Now, what you want," I said, "is to place her
under some obligation to you. What you want is to get her timidly
thanking you. What you want----"
"But what's she going to thank me timidly for?"
I thought for a moment.
"Look out for a chance and save her from drowning," I said.
"I can't swim," said Freddie.
That was Freddie all over, don't you know. A dear old chap in a
thousand ways, but no help to a fellow, if you know what I mean.
He cranked up the piano once more and I sprinted for the open.
I strolled out on to the sands and began to think this thing over.
There was no doubt that the brain-work had got to be done by me. Dear
old Freddie had his strong qualities. He was top-hole at polo, and in
happier days I've heard him give an imitation of cats fighting in a
backyard that would have surprised you. But apart from that he wasn't a
man of enterprise.
Well, don't you know, I was rounding some rocks, with my brain whirring
like a dynamo, when I caught sight of a blue dress, and, by Jove, it
was the girl. I had never met her, but Freddie had sixteen photographs
of her sprinkled round his bedroom, and I knew I couldn't be mistaken.
She was sitting on the sand, helping a small, fat child build a castle.
On a chair close by was an elderly lady reading a novel. I heard the
girl call her "aunt." So, doing the Sherlock Holmes business, I deduced
that the fat child was her cousin. It struck me that if Freddie had
been there he would probably have tried to work up some sentiment about
the kid on the strength of it. Personally I couldn't manage it. I don't
think I ever saw a child who made me feel less sentimental. He was one
of those round, bulging kids.
After he had finished the castle he seemed to get bored with life, and
began to whimper. The girl took him off to where a fellow was selling
sweets at a stall. And I walked on.
Now, fellows, if you ask them, will tell you that I'm a chump. Well, I
don't mind. I admit it. I _am_ a chump. All the Peppers have been
chumps. But what I do say is that every now and then, when you'd least
expect it, I get a pretty hot brain-wave; and that's what happened now.
I doubt if the idea that came to me then would have occurred to a
single one of any dozen of the brainiest chappies you care to name.
It came to me on my return journey. I was walking back along the shore,
when I saw the fat kid meditatively smacking a jelly-fish with a spade.
The girl wasn't with him. In fact, there didn't seem to be any one in
sight. I was just going to pass on when I got the brain-wave. I thought
the whole thing out in a flash, don't you know. From what I had seen of
the two, the girl was evidently fond of this kid, and, anyhow, he was
her cousin, so what I said to myself was this: If I kidnap this young
heavy-weight for the moment, and if, when the girl has got frightfully
anxious about where he can have got to, dear old Freddie suddenly
appears leading the infant by the hand and telling a story to the
effect that he has found him wandering at large about the country and
practically saved his life, why, the girl's gratitude is bound to make
her chuck hostilities and be friends again. So I gathered in the kid
and made off with him. All the way home I pictured that scene of
reconciliation. I could see it so vividly, don't you know, that, by
George, it gave me quite a choky feeling in my throat.
Freddie, dear old chap, was rather slow at getting on to the fine
points of the idea. When I appeared, carrying the kid, and dumped him
down in our sitting-room, he didn't absolutely effervesce with joy, if
you know what I mean. The kid had started to bellow by this time, and
poor old Freddie seemed to find it rather trying.
"Stop it!" he said. "Do you think nobody's got any troubles except you?
What the deuce is all this, Reggie?"
The kid came back at him with a yell that made the window rattle. I
raced to the kitchen and fetched a jar of honey. It was the right
stuff. The kid stopped bellowing and began to smear his face with the
"Well?" said Freddie, when silence had set in. I explained the idea.
After a while it began to strike him.
"You're not such a fool as you look, sometimes, Reggie," he said
handsomely. "I'm bound to say this seems pretty good."
And he disentangled the kid from the honey-jar and took him out, to
scour the beach for Angela.
I don't know when I've felt so happy. I was so fond of dear old Freddie
that to know that he was soon going to be his old bright self again
made me feel as if somebody had left me about a million pounds. I was
leaning back in a chair on the veranda, smoking peacefully, when down
the road I saw the old boy returning, and, by George, the kid was still
with him. And Freddie looked as if he hadn't a friend in the world.
"Hello!" I said. "Couldn't you find her?"
"Yes, I found her," he replied, with one of those bitter, hollow
Freddie sank into a chair and groaned.
"This isn't her cousin, you idiot!" he said.
"He's no relation at all. He's just a kid she happened to meet on the
beach. She had never seen him before in her life."
"What! Who is he, then?"
"I don't know. Oh, Lord, I've had a time! Thank goodness you'll
probably spend the next few years of your life in Dartmoor for
kidnapping. That's my only consolation. I'll come and jeer at you
through the bars."
"Tell me all, old boy," I said.
It took him a good long time to tell the story, for he broke off in the
middle of nearly every sentence to call me names, but I gathered
gradually what had happened. She had listened like an iceberg while he
told the story he had prepared, and then--well, she didn't actually
call him a liar, but she gave him to understand in a general sort of
way that if he and Dr. Cook ever happened to meet, and started swapping
stories, it would be about the biggest duel on record. And then he had
crawled away with the kid, licked to a splinter.
"And mind, this is your affair," he concluded. "I'm not mixed up in it
at all. If you want to escape your sentence, you'd better go and find
the kid's parents and return him before the police come for you."
* * * * *
By Jove, you know, till I started to tramp the place with this infernal
kid, I never had a notion it would have been so deuced difficult to
restore a child to its anxious parents. It's a mystery to me how
kidnappers ever get caught. I searched Marvis Bay like a bloodhound,
but nobody came forward to claim the infant. You'd have thought, from
the lack of interest in him, that he was stopping there all by himself
in a cottage of his own. It wasn't till, by an inspiration, I thought
to ask the sweet-stall man that I found out that his name was Medwin,
and that his parents lived at a place called Ocean Rest, in Beach Road.
I shot off there like an arrow and knocked at the door. Nobody
answered. I knocked again. I could hear movements inside, but nobody
came. I was just going to get to work on that knocker in such a way
that the idea would filter through into these people's heads that I
wasn't standing there just for the fun of the thing, when a voice from
somewhere above shouted, "Hi!"
I looked up and saw a round, pink face, with grey whiskers east and
west of it, staring down from an upper window.
"Hi!" it shouted again.
"What the deuce do you mean by 'Hi'?" I said.
"You can't come in," said the face. "Hello, is that Tootles?"
"My name is not Tootles, and I don't want to come in," I said. "Are you
Mr. Medwin? I've brought back your son."
"I see him. Peep-bo, Tootles! Dadda can see 'oo!"
The face disappeared with a jerk. I could hear voices. The face
I churned the gravel madly.
"Do you live here?" said the face.
"I'm staying here for a few weeks."
"What's your name?"
"Pepper? Any relation to Edward Pepper, the colliery owner?"
"My uncle. But----"
"I used to know him well. Dear old Edward Pepper! I wish I was with him
"I wish you were," I said.
He beamed down at me.
"This is most fortunate," he said. "We were wondering what we were to
do with Tootles. You see, we have the mumps here. My daughter Bootles
has just developed mumps. Tootles must not be exposed to the risk of
infection. We could not think what we were to do with him. It was most
fortunate your finding him. He strayed from his nurse. I would hesitate
to trust him to the care of a stranger, but you are different. Any
nephew of Edward Pepper's has my implicit confidence. You must take
Tootles to your house. It will be an ideal arrangement. I have written
to my brother in London to come and fetch him. He may be here in a few
"He is a busy man, of course; but he should certainly be here within a
week. Till then Tootles can stop with you. It is an excellent plan.
Very much obliged to you. Your wife will like Tootles."
"I haven't got a wife," I yelled; but the window had closed with a
bang, as if the man with the whiskers had found a germ trying to
escape, don't you know, and had headed it off just in time.
I breathed a deep breath and wiped my forehead.
The window flew up again.
A package weighing about a ton hit me on the head and burst like a
"Did you catch it?" said the face, reappearing. "Dear me, you missed
it! Never mind. You can get it at the grocer's. Ask for Bailey's
Granulated Breakfast Chips. Tootles takes them for breakfast with a
little milk. Be certain to get Bailey's."
My spirit was broken, if you know what I mean. I accepted the situation.
Taking Tootles by the hand, I walked slowly away. Napoleon's retreat
from Moscow was a picnic by the side of it.
As we turned up the road we met Freddie's Angela.
The sight of her had a marked effect on the kid Tootles. He pointed at
her and said, "Wah!"
The girl stopped and smiled. I loosed the kid, and he ran to her.
"Well, baby?" she said, bending down to him. "So father found you
again, did he? Your little son and I made friends on the beach this
morning," she said to me.
This was the limit. Coming on top of that interview with the whiskered
lunatic it so utterly unnerved me, don't you know, that she had nodded
good-bye and was half-way down the road before I caught up with my
breath enough to deny the charge of being the infant's father.
I hadn't expected dear old Freddie to sing with joy when he found out
what had happened, but I did think he might have shown a little more
manly fortitude. He leaped up, glared at the kid, and clutched his
head. He didn't speak for a long time, but, on the other hand, when he
began he did not leave off for a long time. He was quite emotional,
dear old boy. It beat me where he could have picked up such
"Well," he said, when he had finished, "say something! Heavens! man,
why don't you say something?"
"You don't give me a chance, old top," I said soothingly.
"What are you going to do about it?"
"What can we do about it?"
"We can't spend our time acting as nurses to this--this exhibit."
He got up.
"I'm going back to London," he said.
"Freddie!" I cried. "Freddie, old man!" My voice shook. "Would you
desert a pal at a time like this?"
"I would. This is your business, and you've got to manage it."
"Freddie," I said, "you've got to stand by me. You must. Do you realize
that this child has to be undressed, and bathed, and dressed again? You
wouldn't leave me to do all that single-handed? Freddie, old scout, we
were at school together. Your mother likes me. You owe me a tenner."
He sat down again.
"Oh, well," he said resignedly.
"Besides, old top," I said, "I did it all for your sake, don't you
He looked at me in a curious way.
"Reggie," he said, in a strained voice, "one moment. I'll stand a good
deal, but I won't stand for being expected to be grateful."
Looking back at it, I see that what saved me from Colney Hatch in that
crisis was my bright idea of buying up most of the contents of the
local sweet-shop. By serving out sweets to the kid practically
incessantly we managed to get through the rest of that day pretty
satisfactorily. At eight o'clock he fell asleep in a chair, and, having
undressed him by unbuttoning every button in sight and, where there
were no buttons, pulling till something gave, we carried him up to bed.
Freddie stood looking at the pile of clothes on the floor and I knew
what he was thinking. To get the kid undressed had been simple--a mere
matter of muscle. But how were we to get him into his clothes again? I
stirred the pile with my foot. There was a long linen arrangement which
might have been anything. Also a strip of pink flannel which was like
nothing on earth. We looked at each other and smiled wanly.
But in the morning I remembered that there were children at the next
bungalow but one. We went there before breakfast and borrowed their
nurse. Women are wonderful, by George they are! She had that kid
dressed and looking fit for anything in about eight minutes. I showered
wealth on her, and she promised to come in morning and evening. I sat
down to breakfast almost cheerful again. It was the first bit of silver
lining there had been to the cloud up to date.
"And after all," I said, "there's lots to be said for having a
child about the house, if you know what I mean. Kind of cosy and
Just then the kid upset the milk over Freddie's trousers, and when he
had come back after changing his clothes he began to talk about what a
much-maligned man King Herod was. The more he saw of Tootles, he said,
the less he wondered at those impulsive views of his on infanticide.
Two days later Jimmy Pinkerton came down. Jimmy took one look at the
kid, who happened to be howling at the moment, and picked up his
"For me," he said, "the hotel. I can't write dialogue with that sort of
thing going on. Whose work is this? Which of you adopted this little
I told him about Mr. Medwin and the mumps. Jimmy seemed interested.
"I might work this up for the stage," he said. "It wouldn't make a bad
situation for act two of a farce."
"Farce!" snarled poor old Freddie.
"Rather. Curtain of act one on hero, a well-meaning, half-baked sort of
idiot just like--that is to say, a well-meaning, half-baked sort of
idiot, kidnapping the child. Second act, his adventures with it. I'll
rough it out to-night. Come along and show me the hotel, Reggie."
As we went I told him the rest of the story--the Angela part. He laid
down his portmanteau and looked at me like an owl through his glasses.
"What!" he said. "Why, hang it, this is a play, ready-made. It's the
old 'Tiny Hand' business. Always safe stuff. Parted lovers. Lisping
child. Reconciliation over the little cradle. It's big. Child, centre.
Girl L.C.; Freddie, up stage, by the piano. Can Freddie play the
"He can play a little of 'The Rosary' with one finger."
Jimmy shook his head.
"No; we shall have to cut out the soft music. But the rest's all right.
Look here." He squatted in the sand. "This stone is the girl. This bit
of seaweed's the child. This nutshell is Freddie. Dialogue leading up
to child's line. Child speaks like, 'Boofer lady, does 'oo love dadda?'
Business of outstretched hands. Hold picture for a moment. Freddie crosses
L., takes girl's hand. Business of swallowing lump in throat. Then big
speech. 'Ah, Marie,' or whatever her name is--Jane--Agnes--Angela? Very
well. 'Ah, Angela, has not this gone on too long? A little child rebukes
us! Angela!' And so on. Freddie must work up his own part. I'm just
giving you the general outline. And we must get a good line for the
child. 'Boofer lady, does 'oo love dadda?' isn't definite enough. We
want something more--ah! 'Kiss Freddie,' that's it. Short, crisp, and
has the punch."
"But, Jimmy, old top," I said, "the only objection is, don't you know,
that there's no way of getting the girl to the cottage. She cuts
Freddie. She wouldn't come within a mile of him."
"That's awkward," he said. "Well, we shall have to make it an exterior set
instead of an interior. We can easily corner her on the beach somewhere,
when we're ready. Meanwhile, we must get the kid letter-perfect. First
rehearsal for lines and business eleven sharp to-morrow."
Poor old Freddie was in such a gloomy state of mind that we decided not
to tell him the idea till we had finished coaching the kid. He wasn't
in the mood to have a thing like that hanging over him. So we
concentrated on Tootles. And pretty early in the proceedings we saw
that the only way to get Tootles worked up to the spirit of the thing
was to introduce sweets of some sort as a sub-motive, so to speak.
"The chief difficulty," said Jimmy Pinkerton at the end of the first
rehearsal, "is to establish a connection in the kid's mind between his
line and the sweets. Once he has grasped the basic fact that those two
words, clearly spoken, result automatically in acid-drops, we have got
I've often thought, don't you know, how interesting it must be to be
one of those animal-trainer Johnnies: to stimulate the dawning
intelligence, and that sort of thing. Well, this was every bit as
exciting. Some days success seemed to be staring us in the eye, and the
kid got the line out as if he'd been an old professional. And then he'd
go all to pieces again. And time was flying.
"We must hurry up, Jimmy," I said. "The kid's uncle may arrive any day
now and take him away."
"And we haven't an understudy," said Jimmy. "There's something in that.
We must work! My goodness, that kid's a bad study. I've known deaf-mutes
who would have learned the part quicker."
I will say this for the kid, though: he was a trier. Failure didn't
discourage him. Whenever there was any kind of sweet near he had a dash
at his line, and kept on saying something till he got what he was
after. His only fault was his uncertainty. Personally, I would have
been prepared to risk it, and start the performance at the first
opportunity, but Jimmy said no.
"We're not nearly ready," said Jimmy. "To-day, for instance, he said
'Kick Freddie.' That's not going to win any girl's heart. And she might
do it, too. No; we must postpone production awhile yet."
But, by George, we didn't. The curtain went up the very next afternoon.
It was nobody's fault--certainly not mine. It was just Fate. Freddie
had settled down at the piano, and I was leading the kid out of the
house to exercise it, when, just as we'd got out to the veranda, along
came the girl Angela on her way to the beach. The kid set up his usual
yell at the sight of her, and she stopped at the foot of the steps.
"Hello, baby!" she said. "Good morning," she said to me. "May I come
She didn't wait for an answer. She just came. She seemed to be that
sort of girl. She came up on the veranda and started fussing over the
kid. And six feet away, mind you, Freddie smiting the piano in the
sitting-room. It was a dash disturbing situation, don't you know. At
any minute Freddie might take it into his head to come out on to the
veranda, and we hadn't even begun to rehearse him in his part.
I tried to break up the scene.
"We were just going down to the beach," I said.
"Yes?" said the girl. She listened for a moment. "So you're having your
piano tuned?" she said. "My aunt has been trying to find a tuner for
ours. Do you mind if I go in and tell this man to come on to us when
he's finished here?"
"Er--not yet!" I said. "Not yet, if you don't mind. He can't bear to be
disturbed when he's working. It's the artistic temperament. I'll tell
"Very well," she said, getting up to go. "Ask him to call at Pine
Bungalow. West is the name. Oh, he seems to have stopped. I suppose he
will be out in a minute now. I'll wait."
"Don't you think--shouldn't we be going on to the beach?" I said.
She had started talking to the kid and didn't hear. She was feeling in
her pocket for something.
"The beach," I babbled.
"See what I've brought for you, baby," she said. And, by George, don't
you know, she held up in front of the kid's bulging eyes a chunk of
toffee about the size of the Automobile Club.
That finished it. We had just been having a long rehearsal, and the kid
was all worked up in his part. He got it right first time.
"Kiss Fweddie!" he shouted.
And the front door opened, and Freddie came out on to the veranda, for
all the world as if he had been taking a cue.
He looked at the girl, and the girl looked at him. I looked at the
ground, and the kid looked at the toffee.
"Kiss Fweddie!" he yelled. "Kiss Fweddie!"
The girl was still holding up the toffee, and the kid did what Jimmy
Pinkerton would have called "business of outstretched hands" towards
"Kiss Fweddie!" he shrieked.
"What does this mean?" said the girl, turning to me.
"You'd better give it to him, don't you know," I said. "He'll go on
till you do."
She gave the kid his toffee, and he subsided. Poor old Freddie still
stood there gaping, without a word.
"What does it mean?" said the girl again. Her face was pink, and her
eyes were sparkling in the sort of way, don't you know, that makes a
fellow feel as if he hadn't any bones in him, if you know what I mean.
Did you ever tread on your partner's dress at a dance and tear it, and
see her smile at you like an angel and say: "_Please_ don't apologize.
It's nothing," and then suddenly meet her clear blue eyes and feel as
if you had stepped on the teeth of a rake and had the handle jump up
and hit you in the face? Well, that's how Freddie's Angela looked.
"_Well?_" she said, and her teeth gave a little click.
I gulped. Then I said it was nothing. Then I said it was nothing much.
Then I said, "Oh, well, it was this way." And, after a few brief
remarks about Jimmy Pinkerton, I told her all about it. And all the
while Idiot Freddie stood there gaping, without a word.
And the girl didn't speak, either. She just stood listening.
And then she began to laugh. I never heard a girl laugh so much. She
leaned against the side of the veranda and shrieked. And all the while
Freddie, the World's Champion Chump, stood there, saying nothing.
Well I sidled towards the steps. I had said all I had to say, and it
seemed to me that about here the stage-direction "exit" was written in
my part. I gave poor old Freddie up in despair. If only he had said a
word, it might have been all right. But there he stood, speechless.
What can a fellow do with a fellow like that?
Just out of sight of the house I met Jimmy Pinkerton.
"Hello, Reggie!" he said. "I was just coming to you. Where's the kid?
We must have a big rehearsal to-day."
"No good," I said sadly. "It's all over. The thing's finished. Poor
dear old Freddie has made an ass of himself and killed the whole show."
"Tell me," said Jimmy.
I told him.
"Fluffed in his lines, did he?" said Jimmy, nodding thoughtfully. "It's
always the way with these amateurs. We must go back at once. Things
look bad, but it may not be too late," he said as we started. "Even now
a few well-chosen words from a man of the world, and----"
"Great Scot!" I cried. "Look!"
In front of the cottage stood six children, a nurse, and the fellow
from the grocer's staring. From the windows of the houses opposite
projected about four hundred heads of both sexes, staring. Down the
road came galloping five more children, a dog, three men, and a boy,
about to stare. And on our porch, as unconscious of the spectators as
if they had been alone in the Sahara, stood Freddie and Angela, clasped
in each other's arms.
* * * * *
Dear old Freddie may have been fluffy in his lines, but, by George, his
business had certainly gone with a bang!
RALLYING ROUND OLD GEORGE
I think one of the rummiest affairs I was ever mixed up with, in the
course of a lifetime devoted to butting into other people's business,
was that affair of George Lattaker at Monte Carlo. I wouldn't bore you,
don't you know, for the world, but I think you ought to hear about it.
We had come to Monte Carlo on the yacht _Circe_, belonging to an
old sportsman of the name of Marshall. Among those present were myself,
my man Voules, a Mrs. Vanderley, her daughter Stella, Mrs. Vanderley's
maid Pilbeam and George.
George was a dear old pal of mine. In fact, it was I who had worked him
into the party. You see, George was due to meet his Uncle Augustus, who
was scheduled, George having just reached his twenty-fifth birthday, to
hand over to him a legacy left by one of George's aunts, for which he
had been trustee. The aunt had died when George was quite a kid. It was
a date that George had been looking forward to; for, though he had a
sort of income--an income, after-all, is only an income, whereas a
chunk of o' goblins is a pile. George's uncle was in Monte Carlo, and
had written George that he would come to London and unbelt; but it
struck me that a far better plan was for George to go to his uncle at
Monte Carlo instead. Kill two birds with one stone, don't you know. Fix
up his affairs and have a pleasant holiday simultaneously. So George
had tagged along, and at the time when the trouble started we were
anchored in Monaco Harbour, and Uncle Augustus was due next day.
* * * * *
Looking back, I may say that, so far as I was mixed up in it, the
thing began at seven o'clock in the morning, when I was aroused from
a dreamless sleep by the dickens of a scrap in progress outside my
state-room door. The chief ingredients were a female voice that sobbed
and said: "Oh, Harold!" and a male voice "raised in anger," as they say,
which after considerable difficulty, I identified as Voules's. I hardly
recognized it. In his official capacity Voules talks exactly like you'd
expect a statue to talk, if it could. In private, however, he evidently
relaxed to some extent, and to have that sort of thing going on in my
midst at that hour was too much for me.
"Voules!" I yelled.
Spion Kop ceased with a jerk. There was silence, then sobs diminishing
in the distance, and finally a tap at the door. Voules entered with
that impressive, my-lord-the-carriage-waits look which is what I pay
him for. You wouldn't have believed he had a drop of any sort of
emotion in him.
"Voules," I said, "are you under the delusion that I'm going to be
Queen of the May? You've called me early all right. It's only just
"I understood you to summon me, sir."
"I summoned you to find out why you were making that infernal noise
"I owe you an apology, sir. I am afraid that in the heat of the moment
I raised my voice."
"It's a wonder you didn't raise the roof. Who was that with you?"
"Miss Pilbeam, sir; Mrs. Vanderley's maid."
"What was all the trouble about?"
"I was breaking our engagement, sir."
I couldn't help gaping. Somehow one didn't associate Voules with
engagements. Then it struck me that I'd no right to butt in on his
secret sorrows, so I switched the conversation.
"I think I'll get up," I said.
"I can't wait to breakfast with the rest. Can you get me some right
So I had a solitary breakfast and went up on deck to smoke. It was
a lovely morning. Blue sea, gleaming Casino, cloudless sky, and all
the rest of the hippodrome. Presently the others began to trickle up.
Stella Vanderley was one of the first. I thought she looked a bit
pale and tired. She said she hadn't slept well. That accounted for
it. Unless you get your eight hours, where are you?
"Seen George?" I asked.
I couldn't help thinking the name seemed to freeze her a bit. Which was
queer, because all the voyage she and George had been particularly
close pals. In fact, at any moment I expected George to come to me and
slip his little hand in mine, and whisper: "I've done it, old scout;
she loves muh!"
"I have not seen Mr. Lattaker," she said.
I didn't pursue the subject. George's stock was apparently low that
The next item in the day's programme occurred a few minutes later when
the morning papers arrived.
Mrs. Vanderley opened hers and gave a scream.
"The poor, dear Prince!" she said.
"What a shocking thing!" said old Marshall.
"I knew him in Vienna," said Mrs. Vanderley. "He waltzed divinely."
Then I got at mine and saw what they were talking about. The paper was
full of it. It seemed that late the night before His Serene Highness
the Prince of Saxburg-Leignitz (I always wonder why they call these
chaps "Serene") had been murderously assaulted in a dark street on
his way back from the Casino to his yacht. Apparently he had developed
the habit of going about without an escort, and some rough-neck, taking
advantage of this, had laid for him and slugged him with considerable
vim. The Prince had been found lying pretty well beaten up and insensible
in the street by a passing pedestrian, and had been taken back to his
yacht, where he still lay unconscious.
"This is going to do somebody no good," I said. "What do you get for
slugging a Serene Highness? I wonder if they'll catch the fellow?"
"'Later,'" read old Marshall, "'the pedestrian who discovered His
Serene Highness proves to have been Mr. Denman Sturgis, the eminent
private investigator. Mr. Sturgis has offered his services to the
police, and is understood to be in possession of a most important
clue.' That's the fellow who had charge of that kidnapping case in
Chicago. If anyone can catch the man, he can."
About five minutes later, just as the rest of them were going to move
off to breakfast, a boat hailed us and came alongside. A tall, thin man
came up the gangway. He looked round the group, and fixed on old
Marshall as the probable owner of the yacht.
"Good morning," he said. "I believe you have a Mr. Lattaker on
board--Mr. George Lattaker?"
"Yes," said Marshall. "He's down below. Want to see him? Whom shall I
"He would not know my name. I should like to see him for a moment on
somewhat urgent business."
"Take a seat. He'll be up in a moment. Reggie, my boy, go and hurry him
I went down to George's state-room.
"George, old man!" I shouted.
No answer. I opened the door and went in. The room was empty. What's
more, the bunk hadn't been slept in. I don't know when I've been more
surprised. I went on deck.
"He isn't there," I said.
"Not there!" said old Marshall. "Where is he, then? Perhaps he's gone
for a stroll ashore. But he'll be back soon for breakfast. You'd better
wait for him. Have you breakfasted? No? Then will you join us?"
The man said he would, and just then the gong went and they trooped
down, leaving me alone on deck.
I sat smoking and thinking, and then smoking a bit more, when I thought
I heard somebody call my name in a sort of hoarse whisper. I looked
over my shoulder, and, by Jove, there at the top of the gangway in
evening dress, dusty to the eyebrows and without a hat, was dear old
"Great Scot!" I cried.
"'Sh!" he whispered. "Anyone about?"
"They're all down at breakfast."
He gave a sigh of relief, sank into my chair, and closed his eyes. I
regarded him with pity. The poor old boy looked a wreck.
"I say!" I said, touching him on the shoulder.
He leaped out of the chair with a smothered yell.
"Did you do that? What did you do it for? What's the sense of it? How
do you suppose you can ever make yourself popular if you go about
touching people on the shoulder? My nerves are sticking a yard out of
my body this morning, Reggie!"
"Yes, old boy?"
"I did a murder last night."
"It's the sort of thing that might happen to anybody. Directly Stella
Vanderley broke off our engagement I----"
"Broke off your engagement? How long were you engaged?"
"About two minutes. It may have been less. I hadn't a stop-watch. I
proposed to her at ten last night in the saloon. She accepted me. I was
just going to kiss her when we heard someone coming. I went out. Coming
along the corridor was that infernal what's-her-name--Mrs. Vanderley's
maid--Pilbeam. Have you ever been accepted by the girl you love,
"Never. I've been refused dozens----"
"Then you won't understand how I felt. I was off my head with joy. I
hardly knew what I was doing. I just felt I had to kiss the nearest
thing handy. I couldn't wait. It might have been the ship's cat. It
wasn't. It was Pilbeam."
"You kissed her?"
"I kissed her. And just at that moment the door of the saloon opened
and out came Stella."
"Exactly what I said. It flashed across me that to Stella, dear girl,
not knowing the circumstances, the thing might seem a little odd. It
did. She broke off the engagement, and I got out the dinghy and rowed
off. I was mad. I didn't care what became of me. I simply wanted to
forget. I went ashore. I--It's just on the cards that I may have drowned
my sorrows a bit. Anyhow, I don't remember a thing, except that I can
recollect having the deuce of a scrap with somebody in a dark street
and somebody falling, and myself falling, and myself legging it for all
I was worth. I woke up this morning in the Casino gardens. I've lost my
I dived for the paper.
"Read," I said. "It's all there."
"Good heavens!" he said.
"You didn't do a thing to His Serene Nibs, did you?"
"Reggie, this is awful."
"Cheer up. They say he'll recover."
"That doesn't matter."
"It does to him."
He read the paper again.
"It says they've a clue."
"They always say that."
"My hat. I must have dropped it during the scrap. This man, Denman
Sturgis, must have found it. It had my name in it!"
"George," I said, "you mustn't waste time. Oh!"
He jumped a foot in the air.
"Don't do it!" he said, irritably. "Don't bark like that. What's the
"A tall, thin man with an eye like a gimlet. He arrived just before you
did. He's down in the saloon now, having breakfast. He said he wanted
to see you on business, and wouldn't give his name. I didn't like the
look of him from the first. It's this fellow Sturgis. It must be."
"I feel it. I'm sure of it."
"Had he a hat?"
"Of course he had a hat."
"Fool! I mean mine. Was he carrying a hat?"
"By Jove, he _was_ carrying a parcel. George, old scout, you must
get a move on. You must light out if you want to spend the rest of your
life out of prison. Slugging a Serene Highness is _lèse-majesté_.
It's worse than hitting a policeman. You haven't got a moment to
"But I haven't any money. Reggie, old man, lend me a tenner or
something. I must get over the frontier into Italy at once. I'll wire
my uncle to meet me in----"
"Look out," I cried; "there's someone coming!"
He dived out of sight just as Voules came up the companion-way,
carrying a letter on a tray.
"What's the matter!" I said. "What do you want?"
"I beg your pardon, sir. I thought I heard Mr. Lattaker's voice. A
letter has arrived for him."
"He isn't here."
"No, sir. Shall I remove the letter?"
"No; give it to me. I'll give it to him when he comes."
"Very good, sir."
"Oh, Voules! Are they all still at breakfast? The gentleman who came to
see Mr. Lattaker? Still hard at it?"
"He is at present occupied with a kippered herring, sir."
"Ah! That's all, Voules."
"Thank you, sir."
He retired. I called to George, and he came out.
"Who was it?"
"Only Voules. He brought a letter for you. They're all at breakfast
still. The sleuth's eating kippers."
"That'll hold him for a bit. Full of bones." He began to read his
letter. He gave a kind of grunt of surprise at the first paragraph.
"Well, I'm hanged!" he said, as he finished.
"Reggie, this is a queer thing."
He handed me the letter, and directly I started in on it I saw why he
had grunted. This is how it ran:
"My dear George--I shall be seeing you to-morrow, I hope; but I
think it is better, before we meet, to prepare you for a curious
situation that has arisen in connection with the legacy which
your father inherited from your Aunt Emily, and which you are
expecting me, as trustee, to hand over to you, now that you have
reached your twenty-fifth birthday. You have doubtless heard
your father speak of your twin-brother Alfred, who was lost or
kidnapped--which, was never ascertained--when you were both
babies. When no news was received of him for so many years, it
was supposed that he was dead. Yesterday, however, I received a
letter purporting that he had been living all this time in Buenos
Ayres as the adopted son of a wealthy South American, and has
only recently discovered his identity. He states that he is on
his way to meet me, and will arrive any day now. Of course, like
other claimants, he may prove to be an impostor, but meanwhile
his intervention will, I fear, cause a certain delay before I can
hand over your money to you. It will be necessary to go into a
thorough examination of credentials, etc., and this will take
some time. But I will go fully into the matter with you when we
meet.--Your affectionate uncle,
I read it through twice, and the second time I had one of those ideas I
do sometimes get, though admittedly a chump of the premier class. I
have seldom had such a thoroughly corking brain-wave.
"Why, old top," I said, "this lets you out."
"Lets me out of half the darned money, if that's what you mean. If this
chap's not an imposter--and there's no earthly reason to suppose he is,
though I've never heard my father say a word about him--we shall have
to split the money. Aunt Emily's will left the money to my father, or,
failing him, his 'offspring.' I thought that meant me, but apparently
there are a crowd of us. I call it rotten work, springing unexpected
offspring on a fellow at the eleventh hour like this."
"Why, you chump," I said, "it's going to save you. This lets you out of
your spectacular dash across the frontier. All you've got to do is to
stay here and be your brother Alfred. It came to me in a flash."
He looked at me in a kind of dazed way.
"You ought to be in some sort of a home, Reggie."
"Ass!" I cried. "Don't you understand? Have you ever heard of
twin-brothers who weren't exactly alike? Who's to say you aren't
Alfred if you swear you are? Your uncle will be there to back you
up that you have a brother Alfred."
"And Alfred will be there to call me a liar."
"He won't. It's not as if you had to keep it up for the rest of your
life. It's only for an hour or two, till we can get this detective
off the yacht. We sail for England to-morrow morning."
At last the thing seemed to sink into him. His face brightened.
"Why, I really do believe it would work," he said.
"Of course it would work. If they want proof, show them your mole. I'll
swear George hadn't one."
"And as Alfred I should get a chance of talking to Stella and making
things all right for George. Reggie, old top, you're a genius."
"Well, it's only sometimes. I can't keep it up."
And just then there was a gentle cough behind us. We spun round.
"What the devil are you doing here, Voules," I said.
"I beg your pardon, sir. I have heard all."
I looked at George. George looked at me.
"Voules is all right," I said. "Decent Voules! Voules wouldn't give us
away, would you, Voules?"
"But, Voules, old man," I said, "be sensible. What would you gain by
"Financially, sir, nothing."
"Whereas, by keeping quiet"--I tapped him on the chest--"by holding
your tongue, Voules, by saying nothing about it to anybody, Voules, old
fellow, you might gain a considerable sum."
"Am I to understand, sir, that, because you are rich and I am poor, you
think that you can buy my self-respect?"
"Oh, come!" I said.
"How much?" said Voules.
So we switched to terms. You wouldn't believe the way the man haggled.
You'd have thought a decent, faithful servant would have been delighted
to oblige one in a little matter like that for a fiver. But not Voules.
By no means. It was a hundred down, and the promise of another hundred
when we had got safely away, before he was satisfied. But we fixed it
up at last, and poor old George got down to his state-room and changed
He'd hardly gone when the breakfast-party came on deck.
"Did you meet him?" I asked.
"Meet whom?" said old Marshall.
"George's twin-brother Alfred."
"I didn't know George had a brother."
"Nor did he till yesterday. It's a long story. He was kidnapped in
infancy, and everyone thought he was dead. George had a letter from his
uncle about him yesterday. I shouldn't wonder if that's where George
has gone, to see his uncle and find out about it. In the meantime,
Alfred has arrived. He's down in George's state-room now, having a
brush-up. It'll amaze you, the likeness between them. You'll think it
_is_ George at first. Look! Here he comes."
And up came George, brushed and clean, in an ordinary yachting suit.
They were rattled. There was no doubt about that. They stood looking at
him, as if they thought there was a catch somewhere, but weren't quite
certain where it was. I introduced him, and still they looked doubtful.
"Mr. Pepper tells me my brother is not on board," said George.
"It's an amazing likeness," said old Marshall.
"Is my brother like me?" asked George amiably.
"No one could tell you apart," I said.
"I suppose twins always are alike," said George. "But if it ever came
to a question of identification, there would be one way of
distinguishing us. Do you know George well, Mr. Pepper?"
"He's a dear old pal of mine."
"You've been swimming with him perhaps?"
"Every day last August."
"Well, then, you would have noticed it if he had had a mole like this
on the back of his neck, wouldn't you?" He turned his back and stooped
and showed the mole. His collar hid it at ordinary times. I had seen it
often when we were bathing together.
"Has George a mole like that?" he asked.
"No," I said. "Oh, no."
"You would have noticed it if he had?"
"Yes," I said. "Oh, yes."
"I'm glad of that," said George. "It would be a nuisance not to be able
to prove one's own identity."
That seemed to satisfy them all. They couldn't get away from it. It
seemed to me that from now on the thing was a walk-over. And I think
George felt the same, for, when old Marshall asked him if he had had
breakfast, he said he had not, went below, and pitched in as if he
hadn't a care in the world.
Everything went right till lunch-time. George sat in the shade on the
foredeck talking to Stella most of the time. When the gong went and the
rest had started to go below, he drew me back. He was beaming.
"It's all right," he said. "What did I tell you?"
"What did you tell me?"
"Why, about Stella. Didn't I say that Alfred would fix things for
George? I told her she looked worried, and got her to tell me what the
trouble was. And then----"
"You must have shown a flash of speed if you got her to confide in you
after knowing you for about two hours."
"Perhaps I did," said George modestly, "I had no notion, till I became
him, what a persuasive sort of chap my brother Alfred was. Anyway, she
told me all about it, and I started in to show her that George was a
pretty good sort of fellow on the whole, who oughtn't to be turned down
for what was evidently merely temporary insanity. She saw my point."
"And it's all right?"
"Absolutely, if only we can produce George. How much longer does that
infernal sleuth intend to stay here? He seems to have taken root."
"I fancy he thinks that you're bound to come back sooner or later, and
is waiting for you."
"He's an absolute nuisance," said George.
We were moving towards the companion way, to go below for lunch, when a
boat hailed us. We went to the side and looked over.
"It's my uncle," said George.
A stout man came up the gangway.
"Halloa, George!" he said. "Get my letter?"
"I think you are mistaking me for my brother," said George. "My name is
"I am George's brother Alfred. Are you my Uncle Augustus?"
The stout man stared at him.
"You're very like George," he said.
"So everyone tells me."
"And you're really Alfred?"
"I'd like to talk business with you for a moment."
He cocked his eye at me. I sidled off and went below.
At the foot of the companion-steps I met Voules,
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Voules. "If it would be convenient I
should be glad to have the afternoon off."
I'm bound to say I rather liked his manner. Absolutely normal. Not a
trace of the fellow-conspirator about it. I gave him the afternoon off.
I had lunch--George didn't show up--and as I was going out I was
waylaid by the girl Pilbeam. She had been crying.
"I beg your pardon, sir, but did Mr. Voules ask you for the afternoon?"
I didn't see what business if was of hers, but she seemed all worked up
about it, so I told her.
"Yes, I have given him the afternoon off."
She broke down--absolutely collapsed. Devilish unpleasant it was. I'm
hopeless in a situation like this. After I'd said, "There, there!"
which didn't seem to help much, I hadn't any remarks to make.
"He s-said he was going to the tables to gamble away all his savings
and then shoot himself, because he had nothing left to live for."
I suddenly remembered the scrap in the small hours outside my
state-room door. I hate mysteries. I meant to get to the bottom of
this. I couldn't have a really first-class valet like Voules going
about the place shooting himself up. Evidently the girl Pilbeam was
at the bottom of the thing. I questioned her. She sobbed.
I questioned her more. I was firm. And eventually she yielded up the
facts. Voules had seen George kiss her the night before; that was the
Things began to piece themselves together. I went up to interview George.
There was going to be another job for persuasive Alfred. Voules's mind
had got to be eased as Stella's had been. I couldn't afford to lose a
fellow with his genius for preserving a trouser-crease.
I found George on the foredeck. What is it Shakespeare or somebody says
about some fellow's face being sicklied o'er with the pale cast of
care? George's was like that. He looked green.
"Finished with your uncle?" I said.
He grinned a ghostly grin.
"There isn't any uncle," he said. "There isn't any Alfred. And there
isn't any money."
"Explain yourself, old top," I said.
"It won't take long. The old crook has spent every penny of the
trust money. He's been at it for years, ever since I was a kid. When
the time came to cough up, and I was due to see that he did it, he
went to the tables in the hope of a run of luck, and lost the last
remnant of the stuff. He had to find a way of holding me for a while
and postponing the squaring of accounts while he got away, and he
invented this twin-brother business. He knew I should find out sooner
or later, but meanwhile he would be able to get off to South America,
which he has done. He's on his way now."
"You let him go?"
"What could I do? I can't afford to make a fuss with that man Sturgis
around. I can't prove there's no Alfred when my only chance of avoiding
prison is to be Alfred."
"Well, you've made things right for yourself with Stella Vanderley,
anyway," I said, to cheer him up.
"What's the good of that now? I've hardly any money and no prospects.
How can I marry her?"
"It looks to me, old top," I said at last, "as if things were in a bit
of a mess."
"You've guessed it," said poor old George.
I spent the afternoon musing on Life. If you come to think of it, what
a queer thing Life is! So unlike anything else, don't you know, if you
see what I mean. At any moment you may be strolling peacefully along,
and all the time Life's waiting around the corner to fetch you one. You
can't tell when you may be going to get it. It's all dashed puzzling.
Here was poor old George, as well-meaning a fellow as ever stepped,
getting swatted all over the ring by the hand of Fate. Why? That's what
I asked myself. Just Life, don't you know. That's all there was about
It was close on six o'clock when our third visitor of the day arrived.
We were sitting on the afterdeck in the cool of the evening--old
Marshall, Denman Sturgis, Mrs. Vanderley, Stella, George, and I--when
he came up. We had been talking of George, and old Marshall was
suggesting the advisability of sending out search-parties. He was
worried. So was Stella Vanderley. So, for that matter, were George and
I, only not for the same reason.
We were just arguing the thing out when the visitor appeared. He was a
well-built, stiff sort of fellow. He spoke with a German accent.
"Mr. Marshall?" he said. "I am Count Fritz von Cöslin, equerry to His
Serene Highness"--he clicked his heels together and saluted--"the
Prince of Saxburg-Leignitz."
Mrs. Vanderley jumped up.
"Why, Count," she said, "what ages since we met in Vienna! You
"Could I ever forget? And the charming Miss Stella, she is well, I
"Stella, you remember Count Fritz?"
Stella shook hands with him.
"And how is the poor, dear Prince?" asked Mrs. Vanderley. "What a
terrible thing to have happened!"
"I rejoice to say that my high-born master is better. He has regained
consciousness and is sitting up and taking nourishment."
"That's good," said old Marshall.
"In a spoon only," sighed the Count. "Mr. Marshall, with your
permission I should like a word with Mr. Sturgis."
The gimlet-eyed sportsman came forward.
"I am Denman Sturgis, at your service."
"The deuce you are! What are you doing here?"
"Mr. Sturgis," explained the Count, "graciously volunteered his
"I know. But what's he doing here?"
"I am waiting for Mr. George Lattaker, Mr. Marshall."
"You have not found him?" asked the Count anxiously.
"Not yet, Count; but I hope to do so shortly. I know what he looks like
now. This gentleman is his twin-brother. They are doubles."
"You are sure this gentleman is not Mr. George Lattaker?"
George put his foot down firmly on the suggestion.
"Don't go mixing me up with my brother," he said. "I am Alfred. You can
tell me by my mole."
He exhibited the mole. He was taking no risks.
The Count clicked his tongue regretfully.
"I am sorry," he said.
George didn't offer to console him,
"Don't worry," said Sturgis. "He won't escape me. I shall find him."
"Do, Mr. Sturgis, do. And quickly. Find swiftly that noble young man."
"What?" shouted George.
"That noble young man, George Lattaker, who, at the risk of his life,
saved my high-born master from the assassin."
George sat down suddenly.
"I don't understand," he said feebly.
"We were wrong, Mr. Sturgis," went on the Count. "We leaped to the
conclusion--was it not so?--that the owner of the hat you found was
also the assailant of my high-born master. We were wrong. I have heard
the story from His Serene Highness's own lips. He was passing down a
dark street when a ruffian in a mask sprang out upon him. Doubtless he
had been followed from the Casino, where he had been winning heavily.
My high-born master was taken by surprise. He was felled. But before he
lost consciousness he perceived a young man in evening dress, wearing
the hat you found, running swiftly towards him. The hero engaged the
assassin in combat, and my high-born master remembers no more. His
Serene Highness asks repeatedly, 'Where is my brave preserver?' His
gratitude is princely. He seeks for this young man to reward him. Ah,
you should be proud of your brother, sir!"
"Thanks," said George limply.
"And you, Mr. Sturgis, you must redouble your efforts. You must search
the land; you must scour the sea to find George Lattaker."
"He needn't take all that trouble," said a voice from the gangway.
It was Voules. His face was flushed, his hat was on the back of his
head, and he was smoking a fat cigar.
"I'll tell you where to find George Lattaker!" he shouted.
He glared at George, who was staring at him.
"Yes, look at me," he yelled. "Look at me. You won't be the first this
afternoon who's stared at the mysterious stranger who won for two hours
without a break. I'll be even with you now, Mr. Blooming Lattaker. I'll
learn you to break a poor man's heart. Mr. Marshall and gents, this
morning I was on deck, and I over'eard 'im plotting to put up a game on
you. They'd spotted that gent there as a detective, and they arranged
that blooming Lattaker was to pass himself off as his own twin-brother.
And if you wanted proof, blooming Pepper tells him to show them his
mole and he'd swear George hadn't one. Those were his very words. That
man there is George Lattaker, Hesquire, and let him deny it if he can."
George got up.
"I haven't the least desire to deny it, Voules."
"Mr. Voules, if _you_ please."
"It's true," said George, turning to the Count. "The fact is, I had
rather a foggy recollection of what happened last night. I only
remembered knocking some one down, and, like you, I jumped to the
conclusion that I must have assaulted His Serene Highness."
"Then you are really George Lattaker?" asked the Count.
"'Ere, what does all this mean?" demanded Voules.
"Merely that I saved the life of His Serene Highness the Prince of
Saxburg-Leignitz, Mr. Voules."
"It's a swindle!" began Voules, when there was a sudden rush and the
girl Pilbeam cannoned into the crowd, sending me into old Marshall's
chair, and flung herself into the arms of Voules.
"Oh, Harold!" she cried. "I thought you were dead. I thought you'd shot
He sort of braced himself together to fling her off, and then he seemed
to think better of it and fell into the clinch.
It was all dashed romantic, don't you know, but there _are_ limits.
"Voules, you're sacked," I said.
"Who cares?" he said. "Think I was going to stop on now I'm a gentleman
of property? Come along, Emma, my dear. Give a month's notice and get
your 'at, and I'll take you to dinner at Ciro's."
"And you, Mr. Lattaker," said the Count, "may I conduct you to the
presence of my high-born master? He wishes to show his gratitude to his
"You may," said George. "May I have my hat, Mr. Sturgis?"
There's just one bit more. After dinner that night I came up for a
smoke, and, strolling on to the foredeck, almost bumped into George and
Stella. They seemed to be having an argument.
"I'm not sure," she was saying, "that I believe that a man can be so
happy that he wants to kiss the nearest thing in sight, as you put it."
"Don't you?" said George. "Well, as it happens, I'm feeling just that
I coughed and he turned round.
"Halloa, Reggie!" he said.
"Halloa, George!" I said. "Lovely night."
"Beautiful," said Stella.
"The moon," I said.
"Ripping," said George.
"Lovely," said Stella.
"And look at the reflection of the stars on the----"
George caught my eye. "Pop off," he said.
DOING CLARENCE A BIT OF GOOD
Have you ever thought about--and, when I say thought about, I mean
really carefully considered the question of--the coolness, the cheek,
or, if you prefer it, the gall with which Woman, as a sex, fairly
bursts? _I_ have, by Jove! But then I've had it thrust on my
notice, by George, in a way I should imagine has happened to pretty
few fellows. And the limit was reached by that business of the
To make you understand the full what-d'you-call-it of the situation, I
shall have to explain just how matters stood between Mrs. Yeardsley and
When I first knew her she was Elizabeth Shoolbred. Old Worcestershire
family; pots of money; pretty as a picture. Her brother Bill was at
Oxford with me.
I loved Elizabeth Shoolbred. I loved her, don't you know. And there was
a time, for about a week, when we were engaged to be married. But just
as I was beginning to take a serious view of life and study furniture
catalogues and feel pretty solemn when the restaurant orchestra played
"The Wedding Glide," I'm hanged if she didn't break it off, and a month
later she was married to a fellow of the name of Yeardsley--Clarence
Yeardsley, an artist.
What with golf, and billiards, and a bit of racing, and fellows at the
club rallying round and kind of taking me out of myself, as it were, I
got over it, and came to look on the affair as a closed page in the
book of my life, if you know what I mean. It didn't seem likely to me
that we should meet again, as she and Clarence had settled down in the
country somewhere and never came to London, and I'm bound to own that,
by the time I got her letter, the wound had pretty well healed, and I
was to a certain extent sitting up and taking nourishment. In fact, to
be absolutely honest, I was jolly thankful the thing had ended as it
This letter I'm telling you about arrived one morning out of a blue
sky, as it were. It ran like this:
"MY DEAR OLD REGGIE,--What ages it seems since I saw anything of
you. How are you? We have settled down here in the most perfect old
house, with a lovely garden, in the middle of delightful country.
Couldn't you run down here for a few days? Clarence and I would be
so glad to see you. Bill is here, and is most anxious to meet you
again. He was speaking of you only this morning. _Do_ come.
Wire your train, and I will send the car to meet you.
--Yours most sincerely,
"P.S.--We can give you new milk and fresh eggs. Think of that!
"P.P.S.--Bill says our billiard-table is one of the best he has
ever played on.
"P.P.S.S.--We are only half a mile from a golf course. Bill says
it is better than St. Andrews.
"P.P.S.S.S.--You _must_ come!"
Well, a fellow comes down to breakfast one morning, with a bit of a
head on, and finds a letter like that from a girl who might quite
easily have blighted his life! It rattled me rather, I must confess.
However, that bit about the golf settled me. I knew Bill knew what he
was talking about, and, if he said the course was so topping, it must
be something special. So I went.
Old Bill met me at the station with the car. I hadn't come across him
for some months, and I was glad to see him again. And he apparently was
glad to see me.
"Thank goodness you've come," he said, as we drove off. "I was just
about at my last grip."
"What's the trouble, old scout?" I asked.
"If I had the artistic what's-its-name," he went on, "if the mere
mention of pictures didn't give me the pip, I dare say it wouldn't be
so bad. As it is, it's rotten!"
"Pictures. Nothing else is mentioned in this household. Clarence is an
artist. So is his father. And you know yourself what Elizabeth is like
when one gives her her head?"
I remembered then--it hadn't come back to me before--that most of my
time with Elizabeth had been spent in picture-galleries. During the
period when I had let her do just what she wanted to do with me, I had
had to follow her like a dog through gallery after gallery, though
pictures are poison to me, just as they are to old Bill. Somehow it had
never struck me that she would still be going on in this way after
marrying an artist. I should have thought that by this time the mere
sight of a picture would have fed her up. Not so, however, according to
"They talk pictures at every meal," he said. "I tell you, it makes a
chap feel out of it. How long are you down for?"
"A few days."
"Take my tip, and let me send you a wire from London. I go there
to-morrow. I promised to play against the Scottish. The idea was
that I was to come back after the match. But you couldn't get me
back with a lasso."
I tried to point out the silver lining.
"But, Bill, old scout, your sister says there's a most corking links
He turned and stared at me, and nearly ran us into the bank.
"You don't mean honestly she said that?"
"She said you said it was better than St. Andrews."
"So I did. Was that all she said I said?"
"Well, wasn't it enough?"
"She didn't happen to mention that I added the words, 'I don't think'?"
"No, she forgot to tell me that."
"It's the worst course in Great Britain."
I felt rather stunned, don't you know. Whether it's a bad habit to have
got into or not, I can't say, but I simply can't do without my daily
allowance of golf when I'm not in London.
I took another whirl at the silver lining.
"We'll have to take it out in billiards," I said. "I'm glad the table's
"It depends what you call good. It's half-size, and there's a seven-inch
cut just out of baulk where Clarence's cue slipped. Elizabeth has mended
it with pink silk. Very smart and dressy it looks, but it doesn't improve
the thing as a billiard-table."
"But she said you said----"
"Must have been pulling your leg."
We turned in at the drive gates of a good-sized house standing well
back from the road. It looked black and sinister in the dusk, and I
couldn't help feeling, you know, like one of those Johnnies you read
about in stories who are lured to lonely houses for rummy purposes and
hear a shriek just as they get there. Elizabeth knew me well enough to
know that a specially good golf course was a safe draw to me. And she
had deliberately played on her knowledge. What was the game? That was
what I wanted to know. And then a sudden thought struck me which brought
me out in a cold perspiration. She had some girl down here and was going
to have a stab at marrying me off. I've often heard that young married
women are all over that sort of thing. Certainly she had said there was
nobody at the house but Clarence and herself and Bill and Clarence's
father, but a woman who could take the name of St. Andrews in vain as
she had done wouldn't be likely to stick at a trifle.
"Bill, old scout," I said, "there aren't any frightful girls or any rot
of that sort stopping here, are there?"
"Wish there were," he said. "No such luck."
As we pulled up at the front door, it opened, and a woman's figure
"Have you got him, Bill?" she said, which in my present frame of mind
struck me as a jolly creepy way of putting it. The sort of thing Lady
Macbeth might have said to Macbeth, don't you know.
"Do you mean me?" I said.
She came down into the light. It was Elizabeth, looking just the same
as in the old days.
"Is that you, Reggie? I'm so glad you were able to come. I was afraid
you might have forgotten all about it. You know what you are. Come
along in and have some tea."
* * * * *
Have you ever been turned down by a girl who afterwards married and
then been introduced to her husband? If so you'll understand how I felt
when Clarence burst on me. You know the feeling. First of all, when you
hear about the marriage, you say to yourself, "I wonder what he's like."
Then you meet him, and think, "There must be some mistake. She can't have
preferred _this_ to me!" That's what I thought, when I set eyes on
He was a little thin, nervous-looking chappie of about thirty-five. His
hair was getting grey at the temples and straggly on top. He wore
pince-nez, and he had a drooping moustache. I'm no Bombardier Wells
myself, but in front of Clarence I felt quite a nut. And Elizabeth,
mind you, is one of those tall, splendid girls who look like princesses.
Honestly, I believe women do it out of pure cussedness.
"How do you do, Mr. Pepper? Hark! Can you hear a mewing cat?" said
Clarence. All in one breath, don't you know.
"Eh?" I said.
"A mewing cat. I feel sure I hear a mewing cat. Listen!"
While we were listening the door opened, and a white-haired old
gentleman came in. He was built on the same lines as Clarence, but was
an earlier model. I took him correctly, to be Mr. Yeardsley, senior.
Elizabeth introduced us.
"Father," said Clarence, "did you meet a mewing cat outside? I feel
positive I heard a cat mewing."
"No," said the father, shaking his head; "no mewing cat."
"I can't bear mewing cats," said Clarence. "A mewing cat gets on my
"A mewing cat is so trying," said Elizabeth.
"_I_ dislike mewing cats," said old Mr. Yeardsley.
That was all about mewing cats for the moment. They seemed to think
they had covered the ground satisfactorily, and they went back to
We talked pictures steadily till it was time to dress for dinner. At
least, they did. I just sort of sat around. Presently the subject of
picture-robberies came up. Somebody mentioned the "Monna Lisa," and
then I happened to remember seeing something in the evening paper, as I
was coming down in the train, about some fellow somewhere having had a
valuable painting pinched by burglars the night before. It was the
first time I had had a chance of breaking into the conversation with
any effect, and I meant to make the most of it. The paper was in the
pocket of my overcoat in the hall. I went and fetched it.
"Here it is," I said. "A Romney belonging to Sir Bellamy Palmer----"
They all shouted "What!" exactly at the same time, like a chorus.
Elizabeth grabbed the paper.
"Let me look! Yes. 'Late last night burglars entered the residence of
Sir Bellamy Palmer, Dryden Park, Midford, Hants----'"
"Why, that's near here," I said. "I passed through Midford----"
"Dryden Park is only two miles from this house," said Elizabeth. I
noticed her eyes were sparkling.
"Only two miles!" she said. "It might have been us! It might have been
Old Mr. Yeardsley bounded in his chair.
"The 'Venus'!" he cried.
They all seemed wonderfully excited. My little contribution to the
evening's chat had made quite a hit.
Why I didn't notice it before I don't know, but it was not till Elizabeth
showed it to me after dinner that I had my first look at the Yeardsley
"Venus." When she led me up to it, and switched on the light, it seemed
impossible that I could have sat right through dinner without noticing
it. But then, at meals, my attention is pretty well riveted on the
foodstuffs. Anyway, it was not till Elizabeth showed it to me that I
was aware of its existence.
She and I were alone in the drawing-room after dinner. Old Yeardsley
was writing letters in the morning-room, while Bill and Clarence were
rollicking on the half-size billiard table with the pink silk tapestry
effects. All, in fact, was joy, jollity, and song, so to speak, when
Elizabeth, who had been sitting wrapped in thought for a bit, bent
towards me and said, "Reggie."
And the moment she said it I knew something was going to happen. You
know that pre-what-d'you-call-it you get sometimes? Well, I got it
"What-o?" I said nervously.
"Reggie," she said, "I want to ask a great favour of you."
She stooped down and put a log on the fire, and went on, with her back
"Do you remember, Reggie, once saying you would do anything in the
world for me?"
There! That's what I meant when I said that about the cheek of Woman as
a sex. What I mean is, after what had happened, you'd have thought she
would have preferred to let the dead past bury its dead, and all that
sort of thing, what?
Mind you, I _had_ said I would do anything in the world for her.
I admit that. But it was a distinctly pre-Clarence remark. He hadn't
appeared on the scene then, and it stands to reason that a fellow who
may have been a perfect knight-errant to a girl when he was engaged to
her, doesn't feel nearly so keen on spreading himself in that direction
when she has given him the miss-in-baulk, and gone and married a man
who reason and instinct both tell him is a decided blighter.
I couldn't think of anything to say but "Oh, yes."
"There's something you can do for me now, which will make me
"Yes," I said.
"Do you know, Reggie," she said suddenly, "that only a few months ago
Clarence was very fond of cats?"
"Eh! Well, he still seems--er--_interested_ in them, what?"
"Now they get on his nerves. Everything gets on his nerves."
"Some fellows swear by that stuff you see advertised all over the----"
"No, that wouldn't help him. He doesn't need to take anything. He wants
to get rid of something."
"I don't quite fellow. Get rid of something?"
"The 'Venus,'" said Elizabeth.
She looked up and caught my bulging eye.
"You saw the 'Venus,'" she said.
"Not that I remember."
"Well, come into the dining-room."
We went into the dining-room, and she switched on the lights.
"There," she said.
On the wall close to the door--that may have been why I hadn't noticed
it before; I had sat with my back to it--was a large oil-painting. It
was what you'd call a classical picture, I suppose. What I mean is--well,
you know what I mean. All I can say is that it's funny I _hadn't_
"Is that the 'Venus'?" I said.
"How would you like to have to look at that every time you sat down to
"Well, I don't know. I don't think it would affect me much. I'd worry
through all right."
She jerked her head impatiently.
"But you're not an artist," she said. "Clarence is."
And then I began to see daylight. What exactly was the trouble I didn't
understand, but it was evidently something to do with the good old
Artistic Temperament, and I could believe anything about that. It
explains everything. It's like the Unwritten Law, don't you know,
which you plead in America if you've done anything they want to send
you to chokey for and you don't want to go. What I mean is, if you're
absolutely off your rocker, but don't find it convenient to be scooped
into the luny-bin, you simply explain that, when you said you were a
teapot, it was just your Artistic Temperament, and they apologize and
go away. So I stood by to hear just how the A.T. had affected Clarence,
the Cat's Friend, ready for anything.
And, believe me, it had hit Clarence badly.
It was this way. It seemed that old Yeardsley was an amateur artist and
that this "Venus" was his masterpiece. He said so, and he ought to have
known. Well, when Clarence married, he had given it to him, as a wedding
present, and had hung it where it stood with his own hands. All right so
far, what? But mark the sequel. Temperamental Clarence, being a
professional artist and consequently some streets ahead of the dad at
the game, saw flaws in the "Venus." He couldn't stand it at any price.
He didn't like the drawing. He didn't like the expression of the face.
He didn't like the colouring. In fact, it made him feel quite ill to
look at it. Yet, being devoted to his father and wanting to do anything
rather than give him pain, he had not been able to bring himself to
store the thing in the cellar, and the strain of confronting the
picture three times a day had begun to tell on him to such an extent
that Elizabeth felt something had to be done.
"Now you see," she said.
"In a way," I said. "But don't you think it's making rather heavy
weather over a trifle?"
"Oh, can't you understand? Look!" Her voice dropped as if she was in
church, and she switched on another light. It shone on the picture next
to old Yeardsley's. "There!" she said. "Clarence painted that!"
She looked at me expectantly, as if she were waiting for me to swoon,
or yell, or something. I took a steady look at Clarence's effort. It
was another Classical picture. It seemed to me very much like the other
Some sort of art criticism was evidently expected of me, so I made a
dash at it.
"Er--'Venus'?" I said.
Mark you, Sherlock Holmes would have made the same mistake. On the
evidence, I mean.
"No. 'Jocund Spring,'" she snapped. She switched off the light. "I see
you don't understand even now. You never had any taste about pictures.
When we used to go to the galleries together, you would far rather have
been at your club."
This was so absolutely true, that I had no remark to make. She came up
to me, and put her hand on my arm.
"I'm sorry, Reggie. I didn't mean to be cross. Only I do want to make you
understand that Clarence is _suffering_. Suppose--suppose--well, let
us take the case of a great musician. Suppose a great musician had to sit
and listen to a cheap vulgar tune--the same tune--day after day, day after
day, wouldn't you expect his nerves to break! Well, it's just like that
with Clarence. Now you see?"
"But what? Surely I've put it plainly enough?"
"Yes. But what I mean is, where do I come in? What do you want me to
"I want you to steal the 'Venus.'"
I looked at her.
"You want me to----?"
"Steal it. Reggie!" Her eyes were shining with excitement. "Don't you
see? It's Providence. When I asked you to come here, I had just got the
idea. I knew I could rely on you. And then by a miracle this robbery of
the Romney takes place at a house not two miles away. It removes the
last chance of the poor old man suspecting anything and having his
feelings hurt. Why, it's the most wonderful compliment to him. Think!
One night thieves steal a splendid Romney; the next the same gang take
his 'Venus.' It will be the proudest moment of his life. Do it to-night,
Reggie. I'll give you a sharp knife. You simply cut the canvas out of
the frame, and it's done."
"But one moment," I said. "I'd be delighted to be of any use to you,
but in a purely family affair like this, wouldn't it be better--in
fact, how about tackling old Bill on the subject?"
"I have asked Bill already. Yesterday. He refused."
"But if I'm caught?"
"You can't be. All you have to do is to take the picture, open one of
the windows, leave it open, and go back to your room."
It sounded simple enough.
"And as to the picture itself--when I've got it?"
"Burn it. I'll see that you have a good fire in your room."
She looked at me. She always did have the most wonderful eyes.
"Reggie," she said; nothing more. Just "Reggie."
She looked at me.
"Well, after all, if you see what I mean--The days that are no more,
don't you know. Auld Lang Syne, and all that sort of thing. You follow
"All right," I said. "I'll do it."
I don't know if you happen to be one of those Johnnies who are steeped
in crime, and so forth, and think nothing of pinching diamond necklaces.
If you're not, you'll understand that I felt a lot less keen on the job
I'd taken on when I sat in my room, waiting to get busy, than I had done
when I promised to tackle it in the dining-room. On paper it all seemed
easy enough, but I couldn't help feeling there was a catch somewhere,
and I've never known time pass slower. The kick-off was scheduled for
one o'clock in the morning, when the household might be expected to be
pretty sound asleep, but at a quarter to I couldn't stand it any longer.
I lit the lantern I had taken from Bill's bicycle, took a grip of my
knife, and slunk downstairs.
The first thing I did on getting to the dining-room was to open the
window. I had half a mind to smash it, so as to give an extra bit of
local colour to the affair, but decided not to on account of the noise.
I had put my lantern on the table, and was just reaching out for it,
when something happened. What it was for the moment I couldn't have
said. It might have been an explosion of some sort or an earthquake.
Some solid object caught me a frightful whack on the chin. Sparks and
things occurred inside my head and the next thing I remember is feeling
something wet and cold splash into my face, and hearing a voice that
sounded like old Bill's say, "Feeling better now?"
I sat up. The lights were on, and I was on the floor, with old Bill
kneeling beside me with a soda siphon.
"What happened?" I said.
"I'm awfully sorry, old man," he said. "I hadn't a notion it was you. I
came in here, and saw a lantern on the table, and the window open and a
chap with a knife in his hand, so I didn't stop to make inquiries. I
just let go at his jaw for all I was worth. What on earth do you think
you're doing? Were you walking in your sleep?"
"It was Elizabeth," I said. "Why, you know all about it. She said she
had told you."
"You don't mean----"
"The picture. You refused to take it on, so she asked me."
"Reggie, old man," he said. "I'll never believe what they say about
repentance again. It's a fool's trick and upsets everything. If I
hadn't repented, and thought it was rather rough on Elizabeth not to
do a little thing like that for her, and come down here to do it after
all, you wouldn't have stopped that sleep-producer with your chin. I'm
"Me, too," I said, giving my head another shake to make certain it was
"Are you feeling better now?"
"Better than I was. But that's not saying much."
"Would you like some more soda-water? No? Well, how about getting this
job finished and going to bed? And let's be quick about it too. You made
a noise like a ton of bricks when you went down just now, and it's on
the cards some of the servants may have heard. Toss you who carves."
"Tails it is," he said, uncovering the coin. "Up you get. I'll hold the
light. Don't spike yourself on that sword of yours."
It was as easy a job as Elizabeth had said. Just four quick cuts, and
the thing came out of its frame like an oyster. I rolled it up. Old
Bill had put the lantern on the floor and was at the sideboard,
collecting whisky, soda, and glasses.
"We've got a long evening before us," he said. "You can't burn a picture
of that size in one chunk. You'd set the chimney on fire. Let's do the
thing comfortably. Clarence can't grudge us the stuff. We've done him
a bit of good this trip. To-morrow'll be the maddest, merriest day of
Clarence's glad New Year. On we go."
We went up to my room, and sat smoking and yarning away and sipping our
drinks, and every now and then cutting a slice off the picture and
shoving it in the fire till it was all gone. And what with the cosiness
of it and the cheerful blaze, and the comfortable feeling of doing good
by stealth, I don't know when I've had a jollier time since the days
when we used to brew in my study at school.
We had just put the last slice on when Bill sat up suddenly, and
gripped my arm.
"I heard something," he said.
I listened, and, by Jove, I heard something, too. My room was just over
the dining-room, and the sound came up to us quite distinctly. Stealthy
footsteps, by George! And then a chair falling over.
"There's somebody in the dining-room," I whispered.
There's a certain type of chap who takes a pleasure in positively
chivvying trouble. Old Bill's like that. If I had been alone, it would
have taken me about three seconds to persuade myself that I hadn't
really heard anything after all. I'm a peaceful sort of cove, and
believe in living and letting live, and so forth. To old Bill, however,
a visit from burglars was pure jam. He was out of his chair in one
"Come on," he said. "Bring the poker."
I brought the tongs as well. I felt like it. Old Bill collared the
knife. We crept downstairs.
"We'll fling the door open and make a rush," said Bill.
"Supposing they shoot, old scout?"
"Burglars never shoot," said Bill.
Which was comforting provided the burglars knew it.
Old Bill took a grip of the handle, turned it quickly, and in he went.
And then we pulled up sharp, staring.
The room was in darkness except for a feeble splash of light at the
near end. Standing on a chair in front of Clarence's "Jocund Spring,"
holding a candle in one hand and reaching up with a knife in the other,
was old Mr. Yeardsley, in bedroom slippers and a grey dressing-gown. He
had made a final cut just as we rushed in. Turning at the sound, he
stopped, and he and the chair and the candle and the picture came down
in a heap together. The candle went out.
"What on earth?" said Bill.
I felt the same. I picked up the candle and lit it, and then a most
fearful thing happened. The old man picked himself up, and suddenly
collapsed into a chair and began to cry like a child. Of course, I
could see it was only the Artistic Temperament, but still, believe me,
it was devilish unpleasant. I looked at old Bill. Old Bill looked at
me. We shut the door quick, and after that we didn't know what to do. I
saw Bill look at the sideboard, and I knew what he was looking for. But
we had taken the siphon upstairs, and his ideas of first-aid stopped
short at squirting soda-water. We just waited, and presently old
Yeardsley switched off, sat up, and began talking with a rush.
"Clarence, my boy, I was tempted. It was that burglary at Dryden Park.
It tempted me. It made it all so simple. I knew you would put it down
to the same gang, Clarence, my boy. I----"
It seemed to dawn upon him at this point that Clarence was not among
"Clarence?" he said hesitatingly.
"He's in bed," I said.
"In bed! Then he doesn't know? Even now--Young men, I throw myself
on your mercy. Don't be hard on me. Listen." He grabbed at Bill, who
sidestepped. "I can explain everything--everything."
He gave a gulp.
"You are not artists, you two young men, but I will try to make you
understand, make you realise what this picture means to me. I was two
years painting it. It is my child. I watched it grow. I loved it. It
was part of my life. Nothing would have induced me to sell it. And then
Clarence married, and in a mad moment I gave my treasure to him. You
cannot understand, you two young men, what agonies I suffered. The
thing was done. It was irrevocable. I saw how Clarence valued the
picture. I knew that I could never bring myself to ask him for it back.
And yet I was lost without it. What could I do? Till this evening I
could see no hope. Then came this story of the theft of the Romney from
a house quite close to this, and I saw my way. Clarence would never
suspect. He would put the robbery down to the same band of criminals
who stole the Romney. Once the idea had come, I could not drive it out.
I fought against it, but to no avail. At last I yielded, and crept down
here to carry out my plan. You found me." He grabbed again, at me this
time, and got me by the arm. He had a grip like a lobster. "Young man,"
he said, "you would not betray me? You would not tell Clarence?"
I was feeling most frightfully sorry for the poor old chap by this
time, don't you know, but I thought it would be kindest to give it him
straight instead of breaking it by degrees.
"I won't say a word to Clarence, Mr. Yeardsley," I said. "I quite
understand your feelings. The Artistic Temperament, and all that sort
of thing. I mean--what? _I_ know. But I'm afraid--Well, look!"
I went to the door and switched on the electric light, and there,
staring him in the face, were the two empty frames. He stood goggling
at them in silence. Then he gave a sort of wheezy grunt.
"The gang! The burglars! They _have_ been here, and they have
taken Clarence's picture!" He paused. "It might have been mine! My
Venus!" he whispered It was getting most fearfully painful, you know,
but he had to know the truth.
"I'm awfully sorry, you know," I said. "But it _was_."
He started, poor old chap.
"Eh? What do you mean?"
"They _did_ take your Venus."
"But I have it here."
I shook my head.
"That's Clarence's 'Jocund Spring,'" I said.
He jumped at it and straightened it out.
"What! What are you talking about? Do you think I don't know my own
picture--my child--my Venus. See! My own signature in the corner. Can
you read, boy? Look: 'Matthew Yeardsley.' This is _my_ picture!"
And--well, by Jove, it _was_, don't you know!
* * * * *
Well, we got him off to bed, him and his infernal Venus, and we settled
down to take a steady look at the position of affairs. Bill said it was
my fault for getting hold of the wrong picture, and I said it was Bill's
fault for fetching me such a crack on the jaw that I couldn't be expected
to see what I was getting hold of, and then there was a pretty massive
silence for a bit.
"Reggie," said Bill at last, "how exactly do you feel about facing
Clarence and Elizabeth at breakfast?"
"Old scout," I said. "I was thinking much the same myself."
"Reggie," said Bill, "I happen to know there's a milk-train leaving
Midford at three-fifteen. It isn't what you'd call a flier. It gets to
London at about half-past nine. Well--er--in the circumstances, how
THE AUNT AND THE SLUGGARD
Now that it's all over, I may as well admit that there was a time
during the rather funny affair of Rockmetteller Todd when I thought
that Jeeves was going to let me down. The man had the appearance of
Jeeves is my man, you know. Officially he pulls in his weekly wages
for pressing my clothes and all that sort of thing; but actually he's
more like what the poet Johnnie called some bird of his acquaintance who
was apt to rally round him in times of need--a guide, don't you know;
philosopher, if I remember rightly, and--I rather fancy--friend. I rely
on him at every turn.
So naturally, when Rocky Todd told me about his aunt, I didn't
hesitate. Jeeves was in on the thing from the start.
The affair of Rocky Todd broke loose early one morning of spring. I was
in bed, restoring the good old tissues with about nine hours of the
dreamless, when the door flew open and somebody prodded me in the lower
ribs and began to shake the bedclothes. After blinking a bit and
generally pulling myself together, I located Rocky, and my first
impression was that it was some horrid dream.
Rocky, you see, lived down on Long Island somewhere, miles away from
New York; and not only that, but he had told me himself more than once
that he never got up before twelve, and seldom earlier than one.
Constitutionally the laziest young devil in America, he had hit on a
walk in life which enabled him to go the limit in that direction. He
was a poet. At least, he wrote poems when he did anything; but most of
his time, as far as I could make out, he spent in a sort of trance. He
told me once that he could sit on a fence, watching a worm and
wondering what on earth it was up to, for hours at a stretch.
He had his scheme of life worked out to a fine point. About once a
month he would take three days writing a few poems; the other three
hundred and twenty-nine days of the year he rested. I didn't know there
was enough money in poetry to support a chappie, even in the way in
which Rocky lived; but it seems that, if you stick to exhortations to
young men to lead the strenuous life and don't shove in any rhymes,
American editors fight for the stuff. Rocky showed me one of his things
once. It began:
The past is dead.
To-morrow is not born.
Be with every nerve,
With every muscle,
With every drop of your red blood!
It was printed opposite the frontispiece of a magazine with a sort of
scroll round it, and a picture in the middle of a fairly-nude chappie,
with bulging muscles, giving the rising sun the glad eye. Rocky said
they gave him a hundred dollars for it, and he stayed in bed till four
in the afternoon for over a month.
As regarded the future he was pretty solid, owing to the fact that he
had a moneyed aunt tucked away somewhere in Illinois; and, as he had
been named Rockmetteller after her, and was her only nephew, his
position was pretty sound. He told me that when he did come into the
money he meant to do no work at all, except perhaps an occasional poem
recommending the young man with life opening out before him, with all
its splendid possibilities, to light a pipe and shove his feet upon the
And this was the man who was prodding me in the ribs in the grey dawn!
"Read this, Bertie!" I could just see that he was waving a letter or
something equally foul in my face. "Wake up and read this!"
I can't read before I've had my morning tea and a cigarette. I groped
for the bell.
Jeeves came in looking as fresh as a dewy violet. It's a mystery to me
how he does it.
"Very good, sir."
He flowed silently out of the room--he always gives you the impression
of being some liquid substance when he moves; and I found that Rocky
was surging round with his beastly letter again.
"What is it?" I said. "What on earth's the matter?"
"I can't. I haven't had my tea."
"Well, listen then."
"Who's it from?"
At this point I fell asleep again. I woke to hear him saying:
"So what on earth am I to do?"
Jeeves trickled in with the tray, like some silent stream meandering
over its mossy bed; and I saw daylight.
"Read it again, Rocky, old top," I said. "I want Jeeves to hear it. Mr.
Todd's aunt has written him a rather rummy letter, Jeeves, and we want
"Very good, sir."
He stood in the middle of the room, registering devotion to the cause,
and Rocky started again:
"MY DEAR ROCKMETTELLER.--I have been thinking things over for a
long while, and I have come to the conclusion that I have been
very thoughtless to wait so long before doing what I have made
up my mind to do now."
"What do you make of that, Jeeves?"
"It seems a little obscure at present, sir, but no doubt it becomes
cleared at a later point in the communication."
"It becomes as clear as mud!" said Rocky.
"Proceed, old scout," I said, champing my bread and butter.
"You know how all my life I have longed to visit New York and see
for myself the wonderful gay life of which I have read so much. I
fear that now it will be impossible for me to fulfil my dream. I
am old and worn out. I seem to have no strength left in me."
"Sad, Jeeves, what?"
"Sad nothing!" said Rocky. "It's sheer laziness. I went to see her last
Christmas and she was bursting with health. Her doctor told me himself
that there was nothing wrong with her whatever. But she will insist
that she's a hopeless invalid, so he has to agree with her. She's got a
fixed idea that the trip to New York would kill her; so, though it's
been her ambition all her life to come here, she stays where she is."
"Rather like the chappie whose heart was 'in the Highlands a-chasing of
the deer,' Jeeves?"
"The cases are in some respects parallel, sir."
"Carry on, Rocky, dear
"So I have decided that, if I cannot enjoy all the marvels of the
city myself, I can at least enjoy them through you. I suddenly
thought of this yesterday after reading a beautiful poem in the
Sunday paper about a young man who had longed all his life for a
certain thing and won it in the end only when he was too old to
enjoy it. It was very sad, and it touched me."
"A thing," interpolated Rocky bitterly, "that I've not been able to do
in ten years."
"As you know, you will have my money when I am gone; but until now
I have never been able to see my way to giving you an allowance. I
have now decided to do so--on one condition. I have written to a
firm of lawyers in New York, giving them instructions to pay you
quite a substantial sum each month. My one condition is that you
live in New York and enjoy yourself as I have always wished to do.
I want you to be my representative, to spend this money for me as
I should do myself. I want you to plunge into the gay, prismatic
life of New York. I want you to be the life and soul of brilliant
"Above all, I want you--indeed, I insist on this--to write me
letters at least once a week giving me a full description of all
you are doing and all that is going on in the city, so that I may
enjoy at second-hand what my wretched health prevents my enjoying
for myself. Remember that I shall expect full details, and that no
detail is too trivial to interest.--Your affectionate Aunt,
"What about it?" said Rocky.
"What about it?" I said.
"Yes. What on earth am I going to do?"
It was only then that I really got on to the extremely rummy attitude
of the chappie, in view of the fact that a quite unexpected mess of the
right stuff had suddenly descended on him from a blue sky. To my mind
it was an occasion for the beaming smile and the joyous whoop; yet here
the man was, looking and talking as if Fate had swung on his solar
plexus. It amazed me.
"Aren't you bucked?" I said.
"If I were in your place I should be frightfully braced. I consider
this pretty soft for you."
He gave a kind of yelp, stared at me for a moment, and then began to
talk of New York in a way that reminded me of Jimmy Mundy, the reformer
chappie. Jimmy had just come to New York on a hit-the-trail campaign,
and I had popped in at the Garden a couple of days before, for half an
hour or so, to hear him. He had certainly told New York some pretty
straight things about itself, having apparently taken a dislike to the
place, but, by Jove, you know, dear old Rocky made him look like a
publicity agent for the old metrop.!
"Pretty soft!" he cried. "To have to come and live in New York! To have
to leave my little cottage and take a stuffy, smelly, over-heated hole
of an apartment in this Heaven-forsaken, festering Gehenna. To have to
mix night after night with a mob who think that life is a sort of St.
Vitus's dance, and imagine that they're having a good time because
they're making enough noise for six and drinking too much for ten. I
loathe New York, Bertie. I wouldn't come near the place if I hadn't got
to see editors occasionally. There's a blight on it. It's got moral
delirium tremens. It's the limit. The very thought of staying more than
a day in it makes me sick. And you call this thing pretty soft for me!"
I felt rather like Lot's friends must have done when they dropped in
for a quiet chat and their genial host began to criticise the Cities of
the Plain. I had no idea old Rocky could be so eloquent.
"It would kill me to have to live in New York," he went on. "To have to
share the air with six million people! To have to wear stiff collars
and decent clothes all the time! To----" He started. "Good Lord! I
suppose I should have to dress for dinner in the evenings. What a
I was shocked, absolutely shocked.
"My dear chap!" I said reproachfully.
"Do you dress for dinner every night, Bertie?"
"Jeeves," I said coldly. The man was still standing like a statue by
the door. "How many suits of evening clothes have I?"
"We have three suits full of evening dress, sir; two dinner jackets----"
"For practical purposes two only, sir. If you remember we cannot wear
the third. We have also seven white waistcoats."
"Four dozen, sir."
"And white ties?"
"The first two shallow shelves in the chest of drawers are completely
filled with our white ties, sir."
I turned to Rocky.
The chappie writhed like an electric fan.
"I won't do it! I can't do it! I'll be hanged if I'll do it! How on
earth can I dress up like that? Do you realize that most days I don't
get out of my pyjamas till five in the afternoon, and then I just put
on an old sweater?"
I saw Jeeves wince, poor chap! This sort of revelation shocked his
"Then, what are you going to do about it?" I said.
"That's what I want to know."
"You might write and explain to your aunt."
"I might--if I wanted her to get round to her lawyer's in two rapid
leaps and cut me out of her will."
I saw his point.
"What do you suggest, Jeeves?" I said.
Jeeves cleared his throat respectfully.
"The crux of the matter would appear to be, sir, that Mr. Todd is
obliged by the conditions under which the money is delivered into his
possession to write Miss Rockmetteller long and detailed letters
relating to his movements, and the only method by which this can be
accomplished, if Mr. Todd adheres to his expressed intention of
remaining in the country, is for Mr. Todd to induce some second party
to gather the actual experiences which Miss Rockmetteller wishes
reported to her, and to convey these to him in the shape of a careful
report, on which it would be possible for him, with the aid of his
imagination, to base the suggested correspondence."
Having got which off the old diaphragm, Jeeves was silent. Rocky looked
at me in a helpless sort of way. He hasn't been brought up on Jeeves as
I have, and he isn't on to his curves.
"Could he put it a little clearer, Bertie?" he said. "I thought at the
start it was going to make sense, but it kind of flickered. What's the
"My dear old man, perfectly simple. I knew we could stand on Jeeves.
All you've got to do is to get somebody to go round the town for you
and take a few notes, and then you work the notes up into letters.
That's it, isn't it, Jeeves?"
The light of hope gleamed in Rocky's eyes. He looked at Jeeves in a
startled way, dazed by the man's vast intellect.
"But who would do it?" he said. "It would have to be a pretty smart
sort of man, a man who would notice things."
"Jeeves!" I said. "Let Jeeves do it."
"But would he?"
"You would do it, wouldn't you, Jeeves?"
For the first time in our long connection I observed Jeeves almost
smile. The corner of his mouth curved quite a quarter of an inch, and
for a moment his eye ceased to look like a meditative fish's.
"I should be delighted to oblige, sir. As a matter of fact, I have
already visited some of New York's places of interest on my evening
out, and it would be most enjoyable to make a practice of the pursuit."
"Fine! I know exactly what your aunt wants to hear about, Rocky. She
wants an earful of cabaret stuff. The place you ought to go to first,
Jeeves, is Reigelheimer's. It's on Forty-second Street. Anybody will
show you the way."
Jeeves shook his head.
"Pardon me, sir. People are no longer going to Reigelheimer's. The
place at the moment is Frolics on the Roof."
"You see?" I said to Rocky. "Leave it to Jeeves. He knows."
It isn't often that you find an entire group of your fellow-humans
happy in this world; but our little circle was certainly an example of
the fact that it can be done. We were all full of beans. Everything
went absolutely right from the start.
Jeeves was happy, partly because he loves to exercise his giant brain,
and partly because he was having a corking time among the bright lights.
I saw him one night at the Midnight Revels. He was sitting at a table
on the edge of the dancing floor, doing himself remarkably well with a
fat cigar and a bottle of the best. I'd never imagined he could look so
nearly human. His face wore an expression of austere benevolence, and he
was making notes in a small book.
As for the rest of us, I was feeling pretty good, because I was fond
of old Rocky and glad to be able to do him a good turn. Rocky was
perfectly contented, because he was still able to sit on fences in his
pyjamas and watch worms. And, as for the aunt, she seemed tickled to
death. She was getting Broadway at pretty long range, but it seemed to
be hitting her just right. I read one of her letters to Rocky, and it
was full of life.
But then Rocky's letters, based on Jeeves's notes, were enough to buck
anybody up. It was rummy when you came to think of it. There was I,
loving the life, while the mere mention of it gave Rocky a tired
feeling; yet here is a letter I wrote to a pal of mine in London:
"DEAR FREDDIE,--Well, here I am in New York. It's not a bad place.
I'm not having a bad time. Everything's pretty all right. The
cabarets aren't bad. Don't know when I shall be back. How's
"PS.--Seen old Ted lately?"
Not that I cared about Ted; but if I hadn't dragged him in I couldn't
have got the confounded thing on to the second page.
Now here's old Rocky on exactly the same subject:
"DEAREST AUNT ISABEL,--How can I ever thank you enough for giving
me the opportunity to live in this astounding city! New York seems
more wonderful every day.
"Fifth Avenue is at its best, of course, just now. The dresses are
Wads of stuff about the dresses. I didn't know Jeeves was such an
"I was out with some of the crowd at the Midnight Revels the other
night. We took in a show first, after a little dinner at a new
place on Forty-third Street. We were quite a gay party. Georgie
Cohan looked in about midnight and got off a good one about Willie
Collier. Fred Stone could only stay a minute, but Doug. Fairbanks
did all sorts of stunts and made us roar. Diamond Jim Brady was
there, as usual, and Laurette Taylor showed up with a party. The
show at the Revels is quite good. I am enclosing a programme.
"Last night a few of us went round to Frolics on the Roof----"
And so on and so forth, yards of it. I suppose it's the artistic
temperament or something. What I mean is, it's easier for a chappie
who's used to writing poems and that sort of tosh to put a bit of a
punch into a letter than it is for a chappie like me. Anyway, there's
no doubt that Rocky's correspondence was hot stuff. I called Jeeves in
and congratulated him.
"Jeeves, you're a wonder!"
"Thank you, sir."
"How you notice everything at these places beats me. I couldn't tell
you a thing about them, except that I've had a good time."
"It's just a knack, sir."
"Well, Mr. Todd's letters ought to brace Miss Rockmetteller all right,
"Undoubtedly, sir," agreed Jeeves.
And, by Jove, they did! They certainly did, by George! What I mean to
say is, I was sitting in the apartment one afternoon, about a month
after the thing had started, smoking a cigarette and resting the old
bean, when the door opened and the voice of Jeeves burst the silence
like a bomb.
It wasn't that he spoke loud. He has one of those soft, soothing voices
that slide through the atmosphere like the note of a far-off sheep. It
was what he said made me leap like a young gazelle.
And in came a large, solid female.
The situation floored me. I'm not denying it. Hamlet must have felt
much as I did when his father's ghost bobbed up in the fairway. I'd
come to look on Rocky's aunt as such a permanency at her own home that
it didn't seem possible that she could really be here in New York. I
stared at her. Then I looked at Jeeves. He was standing there in an
attitude of dignified detachment, the chump, when, if ever he should
have been rallying round the young master, it was now.
Rocky's aunt looked less like an invalid than any one I've ever seen,
except my Aunt Agatha. She had a good deal of Aunt Agatha about her, as
a matter of fact. She looked as if she might be deucedly dangerous if
put upon; and something seemed to tell me that she would certainly
regard herself as put upon if she ever found out the game which poor
old Rocky had been pulling on her.
"Good afternoon," I managed to say.
"How do you do?" she said. "Mr. Cohan?"
"Mr. Fred Stone?"
"Not absolutely. As a matter of fact, my name's Wooster--Bertie
She seemed disappointed. The fine old name of Wooster appeared to mean
nothing in her life.
"Isn't Rockmetteller home?" she said. "Where is he?"
She had me with the first shot. I couldn't think of anything to say. I
couldn't tell her that Rocky was down in the country, watching worms.
There was the faintest flutter of sound in the background. It was the
respectful cough with which Jeeves announces that he is about to speak
without having been spoken to.
"If you remember, sir, Mr. Todd went out in the automobile with a party
in the afternoon."
"So he did, Jeeves; so he did," I said, looking at my watch. "Did he
say when he would be back?"
"He gave me to understand, sir, that he would be somewhat late in
He vanished; and the aunt took the chair which I'd forgotten to offer
her. She looked at me in rather a rummy way. It was a nasty look. It
made me feel as if I were something the dog had brought in and intended
to bury later on, when he had time. My own Aunt Agatha, back in England,
has looked at me in exactly the same way many a time, and it never fails
to make my spine curl.
"You seem very much at home here, young man. Are you a great friend of
"Oh, yes, rather!"
She frowned as if she had expected better things of old Rocky.
"Well, you need to be," she said, "the way you treat his flat as your
I give you my word, this quite unforeseen slam simply robbed me of the
power of speech. I'd been looking on myself in the light of the dashing
host, and suddenly to be treated as an intruder jarred me. It wasn't,
mark you, as if she had spoken in a way to suggest that she considered
my presence in the place as an ordinary social call. She obviously
looked on me as a cross between a burglar and the plumber's man come
to fix the leak in the bathroom. It hurt her--my being there.
At this juncture, with the conversation showing every sign of being
about to die in awful agonies, an idea came to me. Tea--the good old
"Would you care for a cup of tea?" I said.
She spoke as if she had never heard of the stuff.
"Nothing like a cup after a journey," I said. "Bucks you up! Puts a bit
of zip into you. What I mean is, restores you, and so on, don't you
know. I'll go and tell Jeeves."
I tottered down the passage to Jeeves's lair. The man was reading the
evening paper as if he hadn't a care in the world.
"Jeeves," I said, "we want some tea."
"Very good, sir."
"I say, Jeeves, this is a bit thick, what?"
I wanted sympathy, don't you know--sympathy and kindness. The old nerve
centres had had the deuce of a shock.
"She's got the idea this place belongs to Mr. Todd. What on earth put
that into her head?"
Jeeves filled the kettle with a restrained dignity.
"No doubt because of Mr. Todd's letters, sir," he said. "It was my
suggestion, sir, if you remember, that they should be addressed from
this apartment in order that Mr. Todd should appear to possess a good
central residence in the city."
I remembered. We had thought it a brainy scheme at the time.
"Well, it's bally awkward, you know, Jeeves. She looks on me as an
intruder. By Jove! I suppose she thinks I'm someone who hangs about
here, touching Mr. Todd for free meals and borrowing his shirts."
"It's pretty rotten, you know."
"Most disturbing, sir."
"And there's another thing: What are we to do about Mr. Todd? We've got
to get him up here as soon as ever we can. When you have brought the
tea you had better go out and send him a telegram, telling him to come
up by the next train."
"I have already done so, sir. I took the liberty of writing the message
and dispatching it by the lift attendant."
"By Jove, you think of everything, Jeeves!"
"Thank you, sir. A little buttered toast with the tea? Just so, sir.
I went back to the sitting-room. She hadn't moved an inch. She was still
bolt upright on the edge of her chair, gripping her umbrella like a
hammer-thrower. She gave me another of those looks as I came in. There
was no doubt about it; for some reason she had taken a dislike to me. I
suppose because I wasn't George M. Cohan. It was a bit hard on a chap.
"This is a surprise, what?" I said, after about five minutes' restful
silence, trying to crank the conversation up again.
"What is a surprise?"
"Your coming here, don't you know, and so on."
She raised her eyebrows and drank me in a bit more through her glasses.
"Why is it surprising that I should visit my only nephew?" she said.
Put like that, of course, it did seem reasonable.
"Oh, rather," I said. "Of course! Certainly. What I mean is----"
Jeeves projected himself into the room with the tea. I was jolly glad
to see him. There's nothing like having a bit of business arranged for
one when one isn't certain of one's lines. With the teapot to fool
about with I felt happier.
"Tea, tea, tea--what? What?" I said.
It wasn't what I had meant to say. My idea had been to be a good deal
more formal, and so on. Still, it covered the situation. I poured her
out a cup. She sipped it and put the cup down with a shudder.
"Do you mean to say, young man," she said frostily, "that you expect me
to drink this stuff?"
"Rather! Bucks you up, you know."
"What do you mean by the expression 'Bucks you up'?"
"Well, makes you full of beans, you know. Makes you fizz."
"I don't understand a word you say. You're English, aren't you?"
I admitted it. She didn't say a word. And somehow she did it in a way
that made it worse than if she had spoken for hours. Somehow it was
brought home to me that she didn't like Englishmen, and that if she had
had to meet an Englishman, I was the one she'd have chosen last.
Conversation languished again after that.
Then I tried again. I was becoming more convinced every moment that you
can't make a real lively _salon_ with a couple of people,
especially if one of them lets it go a word at a time.
"Are you comfortable at your hotel?" I said.
"At which hotel?"
"The hotel you're staying at."
"I am not staying at an hotel."
"Stopping with friends--what?"
"I am naturally stopping with my nephew."
I didn't get it for the moment; then it hit me.
"What! Here?" I gurgled.
"Certainly! Where else should I go?"
The full horror of the situation rolled over me like a wave. I couldn't
see what on earth I was to do. I couldn't explain that this wasn't
Rocky's flat without giving the poor old chap away hopelessly, because
she would then ask me where he did live, and then he would be right in
the soup. I was trying to induce the old bean to recover from the shock
and produce some results when she spoke again.
"Will you kindly tell my nephew's man-servant to prepare my room? I
wish to lie down."
"Your nephew's man-servant?"
"The man you call Jeeves. If Rockmetteller has gone for an automobile
ride, there is no need for you to wait for him. He will naturally wish
to be alone with me when he returns."
I found myself tottering out of the room. The thing was too much for
me. I crept into Jeeves's den.
"Jeeves!" I whispered.
"Mix me a b.-and-s., Jeeves. I feel weak."
"Very good, sir."
"This is getting thicker every minute, Jeeves."
"She thinks you're Mr. Todd's man. She thinks the whole place is his,
and everything in it. I don't see what you're to do, except stay on and
keep it up. We can't say anything or she'll get on to the whole thing,
and I don't want to let Mr. Todd down. By the way, Jeeves, she wants
you to prepare her bed."
He looked wounded.
"It is hardly my place, sir----"
"I know--I know. But do it as a personal favour to me. If you come to
that, it's hardly my place to be flung out of the flat like this and
have to go to an hotel, what?"
"Is it your intention to go to an hotel, sir? What will you do for
"Good Lord! I hadn't thought of that. Can you put a few things in a bag
when she isn't looking, and sneak them down to me at the St. Aurea?"
"I will endeavour to do so, sir."
"Well, I don't think there's anything more, is there? Tell Mr. Todd
where I am when he gets here."
"Very good, sir."
I looked round the place. The moment of parting had come. I felt sad.
The whole thing reminded me of one of those melodramas where they drive
chappies out of the old homestead into the snow.
"Good-bye, Jeeves," I said.
And I staggered out.
* * * * *
You know, I rather think I agree with those poet-and-philosopher
Johnnies who insist that a fellow ought to be devilish pleased if he
has a bit of trouble. All that stuff about being refined by suffering,
you know. Suffering does give a chap a sort of broader and more
sympathetic outlook. It helps you to understand other people's
misfortunes if you've been through the same thing yourself.
As I stood in my lonely bedroom at the hotel, trying to tie my white
tie myself, it struck me for the first time that there must be whole
squads of chappies in the world who had to get along without a man to
look after them. I'd always thought of Jeeves as a kind of natural
phenomenon; but, by Jove! of course, when you come to think of it,
there must be quite a lot of fellows who have to press their own
clothes themselves and haven't got anybody to bring them tea in the
morning, and so on. It was rather a solemn thought, don't you know. I
mean to say, ever since then I've been able to appreciate the frightful
privations the poor have to stick.
I got dressed somehow. Jeeves hadn't forgotten a thing in his packing.
Everything was there, down to the final stud. I'm not sure this didn't
make me feel worse. It kind of deepened the pathos. It was like what
somebody or other wrote about the touch of a vanished hand.
I had a bit of dinner somewhere and went to a show of some kind; but
nothing seemed to make any difference. I simply hadn't the heart to go
on to supper anywhere. I just sucked down a whisky-and-soda in the
hotel smoking-room and went straight up to bed. I don't know when I've
felt so rotten. Somehow I found myself moving about the room softly, as
if there had been a death in the family. If I had anybody to talk to I
should have talked in a whisper; in fact, when the telephone-bell rang
I answered in such a sad, hushed voice that the fellow at the other end
of the wire said "Halloa!" five times, thinking he hadn't got me.
It was Rocky. The poor old scout was deeply agitated.
"Bertie! Is that you, Bertie! Oh, gosh? I'm having a time!"
"Where are you speaking from?"
"The Midnight Revels. We've been here an hour, and I think we're a
fixture for the night. I've told Aunt Isabel I've gone out to call up a
friend to join us. She's glued to a chair, with this-is-the-life
written all over her, taking it in through the pores. She loves it, and
I'm nearly crazy."
"Tell me all, old top," I said.
"A little more of this," he said, "and I shall sneak quietly off to the
river and end it all. Do you mean to say you go through this sort of
thing every night, Bertie, and enjoy it? It's simply infernal! I was
just snatching a wink of sleep behind the bill of fare just now when
about a million yelling girls swooped down, with toy balloons. There
are two orchestras here, each trying to see if it can't play louder
than the other. I'm a mental and physical wreck. When your telegram
arrived I was just lying down for a quiet pipe, with a sense of
absolute peace stealing over me. I had to get dressed and sprint two
miles to catch the train. It nearly gave me heart-failure; and on top
of that I almost got brain fever inventing lies to tell Aunt Isabel.
And then I had to cram myself into these confounded evening clothes of
I gave a sharp wail of agony. It hadn't struck me till then that Rocky
was depending on my wardrobe to see him through.
"You'll ruin them!"
"I hope so," said Rocky, in the most unpleasant way. His troubles
seemed to have had the worst effect on his character. "I should like to
get back at them somehow; they've given me a bad enough time. They're
about three sizes too small, and something's apt to give at any moment.
I wish to goodness it would, and give me a chance to breathe. I haven't
breathed since half-past seven. Thank Heaven, Jeeves managed to get out
and buy me a collar that fitted, or I should be a strangled corpse by
now! It was touch and go till the stud broke. Bertie, this is pure
Hades! Aunt Isabel keeps on urging me to dance. How on earth can I
dance when I don't know a soul to dance with? And how the deuce could
I, even if I knew every girl in the place? It's taking big chances even
to move in these trousers. I had to tell her I've hurt my ankle. She
keeps asking me when Cohan and Stone are going to turn up; and it's
simply a question of time before she discovers that Stone is sitting
two tables away. Something's got to be done, Bertie! You've got to
think up some way of getting me out of this mess. It was you who got me
"Me! What do you mean?"
"Well, Jeeves, then. It's all the same. It was you who suggested
leaving it to Jeeves. It was those letters I wrote from his notes that
did the mischief. I made them too good! My aunt's just been telling me
about it. She says she had resigned herself to ending her life where
she was, and then my letters began to arrive, describing the joys of
New York; and they stimulated her to such an extent that she pulled
herself together and made the trip. She seems to think she's had some
miraculous kind of faith cure. I tell you I can't stand it, Bertie!
It's got to end!"
"Can't Jeeves think of anything?"
"No. He just hangs round saying: 'Most disturbing, sir!' A fat lot of
help that is!"
"Well, old lad," I said, "after all, it's far worse for me than it is
for you. You've got a comfortable home and Jeeves. And you're saving a
lot of money."
"Saving money? What do you mean--saving money?"
"Why, the allowance your aunt was giving you. I suppose she's paying
all the expenses now, isn't she?"
"Certainly she is; but she's stopped the allowance. She wrote the
lawyers to-night. She says that, now she's in New York, there is no
necessity for it to go on, as we shall always be together, and it's
simpler for her to look after that end of it. I tell you, Bertie, I've
examined the darned cloud with a microscope, and if it's got a silver
lining it's some little dissembler!"
"But, Rocky, old top, it's too bally awful! You've no notion of what
I'm going through in this beastly hotel, without Jeeves. I must get
back to the flat."
"Don't come near the flat."
"But it's my own flat."
"I can't help that. Aunt Isabel doesn't like you. She asked me what you
did for a living. And when I told her you didn't do anything she said
she thought as much, and that you were a typical specimen of a useless
and decaying aristocracy. So if you think you have made a hit, forget
it. Now I must be going back, or she'll be coming out here after me.
* * * * *
Next morning Jeeves came round. It was all so home-like when he floated
noiselessly into the room that I nearly broke down.
"Good morning, sir," he said. "I have brought a few more of your
He began to unstrap the suit-case he was carrying.
"Did you have any trouble sneaking them away?"
"It was not easy, sir. I had to watch my chance. Miss Rockmetteller is
a remarkably alert lady."
"You know, Jeeves, say what you like--this is a bit thick, isn't it?"
"The situation is certainly one that has never before come under my
notice, sir. I have brought the heather-mixture suit, as the climatic
conditions are congenial. To-morrow, if not prevented, I will endeavour
to add the brown lounge with the faint green twill."
"It can't go on--this sort of thing--Jeeves."
"We must hope for the best, sir."
"Can't you think of anything to do?"
"I have been giving the matter considerable thought, sir, but so far
without success. I am placing three silk shirts--the dove-coloured, the
light blue, and the mauve--in the first long drawer, sir."
"You don't mean to say you can't think of anything, Jeeves?"
"For the moment, sir, no. You will find a dozen handkerchiefs and the
tan socks in the upper drawer on the left." He strapped the suit-case
and put it on a chair. "A curious lady, Miss Rockmetteller, sir."
"You understate it, Jeeves."
He gazed meditatively out of the window.
"In many ways, sir, Miss Rockmetteller reminds me of an aunt of mine
who resides in the south-east portion of London. Their temperaments are
much alike. My aunt has the same taste for the pleasures of the great
city. It is a passion with her to ride in hansom cabs, sir. Whenever
the family take their eyes off her she escapes from the house and
spends the day riding about in cabs. On several occasions she has
broken into the children's savings bank to secure the means to enable
her to gratify this desire."
"I love to have these little chats with you about your female
relatives, Jeeves," I said coldly, for I felt that the man had let me
down, and I was fed up with him. "But I don't see what all this has got
to do with my trouble."
"I beg your pardon, sir. I am leaving a small assortment of neckties on
the mantelpiece, sir, for you to select according to your preference. I
should recommend the blue with the red domino pattern, sir."
Then he streamed imperceptibly toward the door and flowed silently out.
* * * * *
I've often heard that chappies, after some great shock or loss, have a
habit, after they've been on the floor for a while wondering what hit
them, of picking themselves up and piecing themselves together, and
sort of taking a whirl at beginning a new life. Time, the great healer,
and Nature, adjusting itself, and so on and so forth. There's a lot in
it. I know, because in my own case, after a day or two of what you
might call prostration, I began to recover. The frightful loss of
Jeeves made any thought of pleasure more or less a mockery, but at
least I found that I was able to have a dash at enjoying life again.
What I mean is, I braced up to the extent of going round the cabarets
once more, so as to try to forget, if only for the moment.
New York's a small place when it comes to the part of it that wakes up
just as the rest is going to bed, and it wasn't long before my tracks
began to cross old Rocky's. I saw him once at Peale's, and again at
Frolics on the roof. There wasn't anybody with him either time except
the aunt, and, though he was trying to look as if he had struck the
ideal life, it wasn't difficult for me, knowing the circumstances, to
see that beneath the mask the poor chap was suffering. My heart bled
for the fellow. At least, what there was of it that wasn't bleeding for
myself bled for him. He had the air of one who was about to crack under
It seemed to me that the aunt was looking slightly upset also. I took
it that she was beginning to wonder when the celebrities were going to
surge round, and what had suddenly become of all those wild, careless
spirits Rocky used to mix with in his letters. I didn't blame her. I
had only read a couple of his letters, but they certainly gave the
impression that poor old Rocky was by way of being the hub of New York
night life, and that, if by any chance he failed to show up at a
cabaret, the management said: "What's the use?" and put up the
The next two nights I didn't come across them, but the night after that
I was sitting by myself at the Maison Pierre when somebody tapped me on
the shoulder-blade, and I found Rocky standing beside me, with a sort
of mixed expression of wistfulness and apoplexy on his face. How the
chappie had contrived to wear my evening clothes so many times without
disaster was a mystery to me. He confided later that early in the
proceedings he had slit the waistcoat up the back and that that had
helped a bit.
For a moment I had the idea that he had managed to get away from his
aunt for the evening; but, looking past him, I saw that she was in
again. She was at a table over by the wall, looking at me as if I were
something the management ought to be complained to about.
"Bertie, old scout," said Rocky, in a quiet, sort of crushed voice,
"we've always been pals, haven't we? I mean, you know I'd do you a good
turn if you asked me?"
"My dear old lad," I said. The man had moved me.
"Then, for Heaven's sake, come over and sit at our table for the rest
of the evening."
Well, you know, there are limits to the sacred claims of friendship.
"My dear chap," I said, "you know I'd do anything in reason; but----"
"You must come, Bertie. You've got to. Something's got to be done to
divert her mind. She's brooding about something. She's been like that
for the last two days. I think she's beginning to suspect. She can't
understand why we never seem to meet anyone I know at these joints. A
few nights ago I happened to run into two newspaper men I used to know
fairly well. That kept me going for a while. I introduced them to Aunt
Isabel as David Belasco and Jim Corbett, and it went well. But the effect
has worn off now, and she's beginning to wonder again. Something's got to
be done, or she will find out everything, and if she does I'd take a
nickel for my chance of getting a cent from her later on. So, for the
love of Mike, come across to our table and help things along."
I went along. One has to rally round a pal in distress. Aunt Isabel was
sitting bolt upright, as usual. It certainly did seem as if she had
lost a bit of the zest with which she had started out to explore
Broadway. She looked as if she had been thinking a good deal about
rather unpleasant things.
"You've met Bertie Wooster, Aunt Isabel?" said Rocky.
There was something in her eye that seemed to say:
"Out of a city of six million people, why did you pick on me?"
"Take a seat, Bertie. What'll you have?" said Rocky.
And so the merry party began. It was one of those jolly, happy,
bread-crumbling parties where you cough twice before you speak, and
then decide not to say it after all. After we had had an hour of this
wild dissipation, Aunt Isabel said she wanted to go home. In the light
of what Rocky had been telling me, this struck me as sinister. I had
gathered that at the beginning of her visit she had had to be dragged
home with ropes.
It must have hit Rocky the same way, for he gave me a pleading look.
"You'll come along, won't you, Bertie, and have a drink at the flat?"
I had a feeling that this wasn't in the contract, but there wasn't
anything to be done. It seemed brutal to leave the poor chap alone with
the woman, so I went along.
Right from the start, from the moment we stepped into the taxi, the
feeling began to grow that something was about to break loose. A
massive silence prevailed in the corner where the aunt sat, and,
though Rocky, balancing himself on the little seat in front, did his
best to supply dialogue, we weren't a chatty party.
I had a glimpse of Jeeves as we went into the flat, sitting in his
lair, and I wished I could have called to him to rally round. Something
told me that I was about to need him.
The stuff was on the table in the sitting-room. Rocky took up the
"Say when, Bertie."
"Stop!" barked the aunt, and he dropped it.
I caught Rocky's eye as he stooped to pick up the ruins. It was the eye
of one who sees it coming.
"Leave it there, Rockmetteller!" said Aunt Isabel; and Rocky left it
"The time has come to speak," she said. "I cannot stand idly by and see
a young man going to perdition!"
Poor old Rocky gave a sort of gurgle, a kind of sound rather like the
whisky had made running out of the decanter on to my carpet.
"Eh?" he said, blinking.
The aunt proceeded.
"The fault," she said, "was mine. I had not then seen the light. But
now my eyes are open. I see the hideous mistake I have made. I shudder
at the thought of the wrong I did you, Rockmetteller, by urging you
into contact with this wicked city."
I saw Rocky grope feebly for the table. His fingers touched it, and a
look of relief came into the poor chappie's face. I understood his
"But when I wrote you that letter, Rockmetteller, instructing you to go
to the city and live its life, I had not had the privilege of hearing
Mr. Mundy speak on the subject of New York."
"Jimmy Mundy!" I cried.
You know how it is sometimes when everything seems all mixed up and
you suddenly get a clue. When she mentioned Jimmy Mundy I began to
understand more or less what had happened. I'd seen it happen before.
I remember, back in England, the man I had before Jeeves sneaked off
to a meeting on his evening out and came back and denounced me in front
of a crowd of chappies I was giving a bit of supper to as a moral leper.
The aunt gave me a withering up and down.
"Yes; Jimmy Mundy!" she said. "I am surprised at a man of your stamp
having heard of him. There is no music, there are no drunken, dancing
men, no shameless, flaunting women at his meetings; so for you they would
have no attraction. But for others, less dead in sin, he has his message.
He has come to save New York from itself; to force it--in his picturesque
phrase--to hit the trail. It was three days ago, Rockmetteller, that I
first heard him. It was an accident that took me to his meeting. How
often in this life a mere accident may shape our whole future!
"You had been called away by that telephone message from Mr. Belasco;
so you could not take me to the Hippodrome, as we had arranged. I asked
your manservant, Jeeves, to take me there. The man has very little
intelligence. He seems to have misunderstood me. I am thankful that he
did. He took me to what I subsequently learned was Madison Square
Garden, where Mr. Mundy is holding his meetings. He escorted me to a
seat and then left me. And it was not till the meeting had begun that I
discovered the mistake which had been made. My seat was in the middle
of a row. I could not leave without inconveniencing a great many
people, so I remained."
"Rockmetteller, I have never been so thankful for anything else. Mr.
Mundy was wonderful! He was like some prophet of old, scourging the
sins of the people. He leaped about in a frenzy of inspiration till I
feared he would do himself an injury. Sometimes he expressed himself in
a somewhat odd manner, but every word carried conviction. He showed me
New York in its true colours. He showed me the vanity and wickedness of
sitting in gilded haunts of vice, eating lobster when decent people
should be in bed.
"He said that the tango and the fox-trot were devices of the devil to
drag people down into the Bottomless Pit. He said that there was more
sin in ten minutes with a negro banjo orchestra than in all the ancient
revels of Nineveh and Babylon. And when he stood on one leg and pointed
right at where I was sitting and shouted, 'This means you!' I could
have sunk through the floor. I came away a changed woman. Surely you
must have noticed the change in me, Rockmetteller? You must have seen
that I was no longer the careless, thoughtless person who had urged you
to dance in those places of wickedness?"
Rocky was holding on to the table as if it was his only friend.
"Y-yes," he stammered; "I--I thought something was wrong."
"Wrong? Something was right! Everything was right! Rockmetteller, it is
not too late for you to be saved. You have only sipped of the evil cup.
You have not drained it. It will be hard at first, but you will find
that you can do it if you fight with a stout heart against the glamour
and fascination of this dreadful city. Won't you, for my sake, try,
Rockmetteller? Won't you go back to the country to-morrow and begin the
struggle? Little by little, if you use your will----"
I can't help thinking it must have been that word "will" that roused
dear old Rocky like a trumpet call. It must have brought home to him
the realisation that a miracle had come off and saved him from being
cut out of Aunt Isabel's. At any rate, as she said it he perked up, let
go of the table, and faced her with gleaming eyes.
"Do you want me to go back to the country, Aunt Isabel?"
"Not to live in the country?"
"Stay in the country all the time, do you mean? Never come to New
"Yes, Rockmetteller; I mean just that. It is the only way. Only there
can you be safe from temptation. Will you do it, Rockmetteller? Will
you--for my sake?"
Rocky grabbed the table again. He seemed to draw a lot of encouragement
from that table.
"I will!" he said.
* * * * *
"Jeeves," I said. It was next day, and I was back in the old flat, lying
in the old arm-chair, with my feet upon the good old table. I had just
come from seeing dear old Rocky off to his country cottage, and an hour
before he had seen his aunt off to whatever hamlet it was that she was
the curse of; so we were alone at last. "Jeeves, there's no place like
"Very true, sir."
"The jolly old roof-tree, and all that sort of thing--what?"
I lit another cigarette.
"Do you know, at one point in the business I really thought you were
"When did you get the idea of taking Miss Rockmetteller to the meeting?
It was pure genius!"
"Thank you, sir. It came to me a little suddenly, one morning when I
was thinking of my aunt, sir."
"Your aunt? The hansom cab one?"
"Yes, sir. I recollected that, whenever we observed one of her attacks
coming on, we used to send for the clergyman of the parish. We always
found that if he talked to her a while of higher things it diverted her
mind from hansom cabs. It occurred to me that the same treatment might
prove efficacious in the case of Miss Rockmetteller."
I was stunned by the man's resource.
"It's brain," I said; "pure brain! What do you do to get like that,
Jeeves? I believe you must eat a lot of fish, or something. Do you eat
a lot of fish, Jeeves?"
"Oh, well, then, it's just a gift, I take it; and if you aren't born
that way there's no use worrying."
"Precisely, sir," said Jeeves. "If I might make the suggestion, sir, I
should not continue to wear your present tie. The green shade gives you
a slightly bilious air. I should strongly advocate the blue with the
red domino pattern instead, sir."
"All right, Jeeves." I said humbly. "You know!"
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